When the three wise men came bearing gifts to the baby Jesus the items they had chosen were ones that would be of use and benefit to the new king during his lifetime. Frankincense, myrrh, and gold were items of practical use but each also with a deep symbolic meaning in its giving as well.
Frankincense and myrrh are each fragrant resins traditionally used for religious ceremony, cleansing, and purification. They each have many medicinal properties that were made use of during life but they also both were used significantly after death as well.
In everyday use the smoke of these resins would be used to cleanse and perfume the body. In religious ceremony the smoke of the burning frankincense is believed to carry with it to the heavens the thoughts or prayers of the presenter. This gift from the Magi could have been an acknowledgement of the heavenly birth of Jesus.
Myrrh in an opposite light holds a strong symbolic connection to death. It was used in the embalming process and placed next to the body to hide the smell of death. This gift may have been a symbolic premonition of the future suffering and death that Jesus would face. Why this item was gifted to the young king is still under debate even today.
It is believed that in the gifting of gold to Jesus that the three Magi were acknowledging that Jesus was indeed born to be the new king. Gold was a precious metal befitting nobility and a gift traditionally given to those of royal descent.
When I Saw These Gifts I Felt a Rush of Emotion Wash Over Me
We Three Kings of Orient Are
I am Reminded of Christmas and the Star of Bethlehem
I grew up in the country and as a child I remember looking out our large living room window into the darkness of that rural road. I saw snow falling softly onto laden trees, the stars twinkling overhead, and pure holiday magic.
In the sky overhead the North Star is the brightest and I can see in my memory how it shone out from all the others. During the Christmas season I imagined it to be the star of Bethlehem.
Now every year as the holiday season approaches this memory from the past always brings images of the three wise men to my mind. I look up into the night sky and I see the star of Bethlehem shining down on me. It surrounds me with childhood memories.
To celebrate the holidays my elementary school each year would act out the play of the three wise men bearing gifts to present to baby Jesus in the manger. I am not sure why but the boys all wanted to be chosen to be the shepherds. I was very shy so I was always simply hoping to get a role where I did not have to speak.
The Gifts of the Magi Were Symbolic as Well as Practical
The scents of Frankincense and Myrrh are believed to bring purification and healing. These were practical as well as symbolic items to be gifted to someone of royal linage. These were the items gifted by the wise men to the new born king.
The Memories Remind me of the Magnificence of These Gifts
My school Christmas pageant was one of the highlights of the school year and everyone looked forward to it. When the play would finish there would be a loud round of applause from the visiting parents and relatives.
Then Santa would give each child a brown paper bag. Within this satchel was an assortment of treats and always an orange that had came from the far away land of Japan. The orange was a treasure to me as rich as were the gifts of gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh presented to baby Jesus.
The orange's unique sweetness and ease to peel was accented by the fact that this fruit had come from such a distant land and was only available to us during this very special of holidays. Just as the wise men had traveled so far to give their gifts so did this gift of fruit travel so very many miles to arrive into my hands.
Then with us kids munching on our treats, the families would wish each other a Merry Christmas season, and we would head home to begin our holiday from school. It was always dusk when we left the community hall and dark outside by the time that we arrived home.
With the Christmas pageant still fresh in my mind I would pull out the large Children's Book of Bible stories kept in our living room. On the cover was a picture of the three wise men looking up at the star of Bethlehem. If I looked out our window I could imagine that they were traveling our road in the dark of night, in falling snow, watching the twinkling Northern star the brightest in the sky.
Have a Very Merry Christmas
May the Spirit of the Season be With You
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