Three Gifts

Our North American Christmas tradition is not complete without the story of “The Three Wise Men” also known as Magi or Kings of the Orient. Last year I wrote about this Christmas tradition, along with others, in my post Christmas Tradition vs. Christmas Truth.

The Bible does not state how many wise men there were nor does it call them kings. However, it does mention three types of gifts they gave to honour the birth of Jesus – frankincense, gold and myrrh.

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.

It may seem strange to be giving a baby these kinds of gifts, but the wise men were paying homage to someone they regarded as a king.

Mat 2:1,2 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men came from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is He who is born king of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the east and have come to worship Him.

In the ancient world, frankincense, gold and myrrh were costly gifts offered to honour a king. The wise men bestowed these gifts upon Jesus who would be called the “King of Kings”, not of just an earthly realm but of a spiritual one as well.

Rev 19:16 And He has on His garment, and on His thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.

Although the Bible does not attribute any particular significance or purpose to the gifts of frankincense, gold and myrrh, some scholars think that these gifts had special spiritual meaning in regards to Jesus – gold for his kingship, frankincense to represent his priestly role and myrrh to symbolize his death.

The gold may have held a practical purpose too, that of financing Joseph, Mary and infant Jesus’ trip to Egypt to escape Herod.

Frankincense is an aromatic resin harvested from a tree. It is highly fragrant when burned and therefore it was used in worship.

Lev 2:2 And he shall bring it to Aaron’s sons, the priests. And he shall take out of it his handful of flour and its oil, with all its frankincense. And the priest shall burn the memorial of it on the altar, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savor to Jehovah.

It is a symbol of holiness and righteousness. It is thought that the gift of frankincense symbolized Jesus sacrificing himself for us.

Heb 9:25, 26 Nor yet that He should offer Himself often, even as the high priest enters into the Holy of Holies every year with the blood of others (for then He must have suffered often since the foundation of the world), but now once in the end of the world He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.

Myrrh was a spice also obtained from a tree. It was used in the embalming process and sometimes mixed with wine to make a sedating drink.

Jesus was offered a drink of wine mixed with myrrh when he was being crucified but he refused to drink it.

Mar 15:23 And they gave Him wine mixed with myrrh to drink. But He did not take it.

Myrrh symbolizes bitterness, suffering, and affliction. Jesus certainly experienced all those things for our sake when he was tortured and then crucified.

Isa 53:4 Surely He has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
Isa 53:5 But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was on Him; and with His stripes we ourselves are healed.
Isa 53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, each one to his own way; and Jehovah has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
Isa 53:7 He was oppressed, and He was afflicted;…

1Pe 3:18 For Christ also once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, indeed being put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the Spirit;

It is interesting to note that after Jesus was killed and Joseph of Arimathea had taken Jesus’ body, Nicodemus arrived with myrrh and aloes to help with the preparation of the body for burial.

Joh 19:38 And after these things, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus (but secretly for fear of the Jews) begged of Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus. And Pilate gave permission. Then he came and took the body of Jesus.
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.

Frankincense, gold and myrrh. Three gifts given to honour a King. Intentional or not, three gifts with seemingly symbolic meaning and importance. Did the wise men perceive the importance of those gifts? We do not know for sure. But, we know that the first gift giving at the birth of Jesus inspired our tradition of giving gifts on the day we celebrate his birth – Christmas.

I pray that the thoughtful and honouring example set by the wise men guide us as we rush around with our Christmas shopping in this material world.

Blessings

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Those Old Emotions

In the 1980’s, a Canadian band called, The Spoons, had a hit song called, “Those Old Emotions”:

And you know you that your there once more
In some forgotten story
From your living library
Of things that you remember
There it goes again
Those old emotions
And it brings back, and it brings back
Those old emotions

This past week, I was transported back to my living library to a story that I had hoped to have long forgotten, and to all the negative emotions that had accompanied it.

I have done my very best to forgive the person involved in that story. God knows that forgiving that person is the true desire of my heart. I thought that I had done very well in forgiving and burying the hurt of the past. I have a good life now and I am much happier now than I have ever been. Strange then how just a few sentences can send me spiraling down the hole of sorrow, frustration, bitterness and anger once again. It’s not as if I had sat and stewed about it for some time; rather, it was an instantaneous, physical, gut-punch reaction as all those negative emotions came roaring back at me like a huge wave crashing over me.

I was shocked at the force of my emotions and the affect they had on me. I couldn’t sleep as my mind kept whirling around thinking, “not again! I don’t want to have to go through this all over again!” So I did the only thing that I knew to do – I prayed. I was open and honest with God about my thoughts and feelings and I asked Him to take them away – and then I let Him take them.

Oftentimes we ask God to do something with a problem but then we continue to hold on to that problem. I am learning how to ask and then “let go and let God”.

The following morning, I felt much more at peace and was able to think calmly and take some wise steps to deal with the situation.

Along with learning to “let go and let God”, I continue to practice forgiveness. Some day I hope that “practice makes perfect” but until then I continue to remind myself what Jesus had to say about forgiving someone who continues to hurt you:

Mat 18:21 Then Peter came to Him and said, Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Until seven times?
Mat 18:22 Jesus said to him, I do not say to you, Until seven times; but, Until seventy times seven.

If you are feeling over-whelmed by “those old emotions”, try the following:

Pray!

Php 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.

Confess your negative thoughts and feelings to God.

1Jn 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Give your burden to Jesus.

Mat 11:28 Come to Me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Mat 11:29 Take My yoke on you and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and you shall find rest to your souls.

Practice forgiveness.

Mat 18:21 Then Peter came to Him and said, Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Until seven times?
Mat 18:22 Jesus said to him, I do not say to you, Until seven times; but, Until seventy times seven.

Mar 11:25 And when you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive it so that also your Father in Heaven may forgive you your trespasses.

May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Php 4:7) Amen.