Sunday, January 10, 2016
Visit from the Magi
Earlier this week, on January 6, we observed Epiphany. This holy day commemorates several events in the early life of Jesus, but one of the most common is the visit by the Wise Men, who by the way did not show up at the stable on the first Christmas Eve. They arrived to visit the Christ Child anywhere from several weeks to several years later. Also, no one knows how many there were, the number three is the traditional number based on the gifts they brought.
They entered the house and saw the child in the arms of Mary, his mother. Overcome, they kneeled and worshiped him. Then they opened their luggage and presented gifts: gold, frankincense, myrrh. (Matthew 2:11, The Message)
Was there any significance to the three gifts that the wise men brought? The gold is easy to understand. Gold stood for royalty. Kings throughout history have lavished themselves in gold, covering their palaces with it, gaining power by possessing it. Jesus came to earth as The King. A gift of gold would certainly have been appropriate.
Frankincense is a tree resin. Burned as incense or used as a perfume, it was known to be quite fragrant. In the Old Testament it was used in offerings, and was also rather expensive. These were all good reasons to give it as a gift to the infant Jesus.
Myrrh also had several uses in the Old Testament. It was used as a fragrance, in the purification of women, and as part of a holy oil. It was used in cosmetics of the time, and as a medicine, thought to contain a numbing agent. Perhaps the most interesting use was in embalming. Did the magi foresee Jesus’ entire life, giving appropriate gifts from His birth to His death?
When we present gifts to the parents of a newborn, we give them practical items, such as clothing, blankets, and even diapers. Would you ever give new parents gifts such as Mary and Joseph received on behalf of their son? Think of something meaningful, but not necessarily useful, that you would like to receive on the occasion of the birth of your firstborn child. Perhaps a treasured locket from a grandmother, or a silver coin from the country of your ancestors. Some gifts have more sentimental value than monetary value. Those are the gifts which last. Isn’t Jesus one of those gifts to us?
(From “The Early Life ofJesus in 40 Days”. It's not too late to get a copy and find out what else happened to the Baby Jesus.)