Monday, December 21, 2009

We Three Kings

When I was a little girl, I wondered where in the world Orientarr was.  I imagined that it was in Asia somewhere, far away.  All I really knew about it was that three kings who visited the young Jesus were from there. ;-D

I was always fascinated by the story of the three kings, and could tell you that they brought gifts to Jesus of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  I knew what gold was.  I recently learned a little about frankincense, and myrrh, and the significance makes a little more sense to me now.

The magi, in search of a king, certainly would have brought Him expensive gifts to pay homage.  That explains the gold.  It was even more valuable and precious then than it is now.  It surely would have been helpful to finance the trip that Jesus, Joseph, and Mary would soon make to Egypt. It was likely a gift they would have been very pleased with.  It truly was a kingly kind of gift.

Frankincense was a costly liquid, used by the Hebrew priests in their sacrifices.  When burned it gives off a sweet aroma.  It was used in the Thank Offerings and the sweet smell was present as the people and priests gave thanks and praise to God.  Biblically we're told the sweet smell of burning incense reached the Throne Room of God and signified the prayers of His people rising to Him. It's been shown that the sense of smell is the primary sense for recollecting memories -- an aroma is more likely to make us remember something than a sight, sound, touch or taste. Today, some promising research is even being done with frankincense as a treatment for some forms of cancer and debilitating diseases.  So, as the frankincense symbolically represented a pleasing sacrifice to God, the prayers of the people ever before Him, and a calming balm, the frankincense was a priestly kind of gift.

Myrrh was commonly used back then for embalming the dead.  Not necessarily a baby shower gift most moms would delight over, I think.   Taken internally, it was used as a pain reliever, which Jesus refused when He hung on the cross.  It was most likely produced in the town of Smyrna, the location of the church mentioned in the final book of the Bible (Rev. 2:8) as the people who would suffer for their faith, but receive the Crown of Life. While it would have had a monetary value, it's primary significance here was the implication that this child would give His Life to preserve ours. The myrrh was a savior kind of gift.

We can't really know why these gifts were chosen by the magi, or if they had knowledge of the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah, but they probably did, being learned 'wise' men. 

Interestingly, I've read a commentary on the book of Isaiah that points out in the description of the Returning Savior (Second Coming) in chapter 60, that the gifts brought on camels from Sheba (a.k.a., the Orient) are 'gold and frankincense'. No myrrh is brought, because death and pain have been defeated.

So this Christmas, as the three kings did long ago, we can give Him gifts, too.  We can offer Him our thanks and praise; we can give of our wealth to His purposes, and we can accept the preservation of His Life as our Savior.

Have a Most Merry Christmas.