Joh 17:23 I in them, and You in Me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that You have sent Me and have loved them as You have loved Me.
Christmas is supposed to be all about the birth of Jesus. However, the true story of his birth has been so wrapped up with myth, legend and tradition that it is often difficult to know fact from fiction.
One of the traditional Christmas legends is that three Kings from the East, Balthazar, Melchior and Caspar, arrived at the manger when Jesus was born and presented him with three gifts – frankincense, gold and myrrh.
If you read the biblical account carefully, you will note the following: the men were not called Kings, the number of them was not mentioned and neither were their names, and they did not find Jesus as a baby in the manger.
Mat 2:1 Now when the birth of Jesus took place in Beth-lehem of Judaea, in the days of Herod the king, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,
Mat 2:2 Saying, Where is the King of the Jews whose birth has now taken place? We have seen his star in the east and have come to give him worship.
Mat 2:3 And when it came to the ears of Herod the king, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
Mat 2:4 And he got together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, questioning them as to where the birth-place of the Christ would be.
Mat 2:5 And they said to him, In Beth-lehem of Judaea; for so it is said in the writings of the prophet,
Mat 2:6 You Beth-lehem, in the land of Judah, are not the least among the chiefs of Judah: out of you will come a ruler, who will be the keeper of my people Israel.
Mat 2:7 Then Herod sent for the wise men privately, and put questions to them about what time the star had been seen.
Mat 2:8 And he sent them to Beth-lehem and said, Go and make certain where the young child is; and when you have seen him, let me have news of it, so that I may come and give him worship.
Mat 2:9 And after hearing the king, they went on their way; and the star which they saw in the east went before them, till it came to rest over the place where the young child was.
Mat 2:10 And when they saw the star they were full of joy.
Mat 2:11 And they came into the house, and saw the young child with Mary, his mother; and falling down on their faces they gave him worship; and from their store they gave him offerings of gold, perfume, and spices.
Mat 2:12 And it was made clear to them by God in a dream that they were not to go back to Herod; so they went into their country by another way. (BBE)
The legend does accurately mention three gifts, as found in the scripture:
Mat 2:11 And coming into the house, they saw the child with Mary His mother. And they fell down and worshiped Him. And opening their treasures, they presented gifts to Him, gold and frankincense and myrrh.
Some Christians believe that each of the three gifts held a symbolic meaning:
- Gold is associated with Kingship and Jesus is called the King of Kings.
Rev 19:16 And He has on His garment, and on His thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.
2. Frankincense was part of the holy sacrificial incense burnt in the Temple. It was to be set apart and holy just as Jesus was set apart and holy.
Exo 30:34 And the Lord said to Moses, Take sweet spices, stacte and onycha and galbanum, with the best frankincense, in equal weights;
Exo 30:35 And make from them a perfume, such as is made by the art of the perfume-maker, mixed with salt, and clean and holy.
Exo 30:36 And put some of it, crushed very small, in front of the ark in the Tent of meeting, where I will come face to face with you; it is to be most holy.
Exo 30:37 You are not to make any perfume like it for yourselves: it is to be kept holy to the Lord.
3. Myrrh was a perfume used for anointing as well as for use in the embalming process. As a gift to Jesus, it may have represented that Jesus was to become The Anointed One of God and also as a foreshadowing of his death.
Act 10:38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, and He went about doing good, and healing all those who were oppressed by the Devil, for God was with Him.
Joh 19:39 And Nicodemus also came, who at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds.
Joh 19:40 Then they took the body of Jesus and wound it with linens with the spices, as is the custom of the Jews to bury.
Apparently, it was the giving of these gifts that was the basis for our tradition of giving gifts at Christmas. Gift giving, in and of itself, is a lovely gesture, but as with all actions, it is the motivation behind the giving that is important. Unfortunately, I think that in this day and age of consumerism, materialism, and greed, Christmas gift giving has gotten WAY off track. It now seems to be all about the “how many” rather than the “why”.
I recently read a blog post from http://www.becomingminimalist.com/great-expectations in which the author, Joshua, shares his family’s way of dealing with the excesses of Christmas – they buy their children three gifts. The first gift is something the child wants. The second is something the child needs. The third gift provides an experience to share with loved ones.
I think that is a fantastic idea! And if the giving of Christmas gifts is supposed to symbolize the gift of Jesus to mankind and mirror the wise men giving gifts to Jesus, then three is the “magic” number and makes for a great template for our Christmas gift giving.
Compare Joshua’s gift giving reasons with God’s gift of his son Jesus:
- Child wants – mankind wants love, acceptance, and joy. Jesus came to give us all of those and more.
- Child needs – mankind’s needs are the same as it’s wants but also includes forgiveness, salvation and righteousness. Jesus came to give us all of these and more.
- An experience to share – Jesus freely gave us all of the above gifts – and then he told us to go out and share these same gifts with others.
Joh 13:34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. As I have loved you, you should also love one another.
When it comes right down to it, there is really only one gift that truly matters – the gift of love.
1Co 13:13 But now we still have faith, hope, love, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
(And did you notice – “faith, hope, love” – three gifts!)
The following is my prayer for you, for Christmas and all the year through:
” For this cause I go down on my knees before the Father, From whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, That in the wealth of his glory he would make you strong with power through his Spirit in your hearts; So that Christ may have his place in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and based in love, May have strength to see with all the saints how wide and long and high and deep it is, And to have knowledge of the love of Christ which is outside all knowledge, so that you may be made complete as God himself is complete. Now to him who is able to do in full measure more than all our desires or thoughts, through the power which is working in us, To him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations for ever and ever. So be it. “
(Image came from a shared post on Facebook)