“Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.”
Matthew 2:11 (NIV)
Having become a grandparent for the first time this year got me thinking of what you give a baby at Christmas. A soft cuddly toy or a brightly coloured activity gadget to hang over the cot? Perhaps some money for his future education. Jesus had none of these, but he did get gold, frankincense and myrrh – why?
Gold: Eastern custom demanded that you do not approach a king without an expensive tribute. The Wise Men recognised Jesus as a king. In Matthew 27:11-12 Jesus confirmed his status to Pontius Pilate at his trial. Indeed, Revelation 19:16 declares Jesus to be “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” and he will return to remove Satan’s hold over human civilisation and put the world right.
Frankincense: Another Eastern custom requires the burning of this resin at a blessing of a new child. Incense represents our prayers and access to God. Matthew 27:51 records that the curtain of the temple was torn in two when Jesus died, highlighting that Jesus opened our access to God. Jesus is our mediator and High Priest (Hebrews 2:17 and 4:14-16), always bringing us before God.
Myrrh: This is a bitter herb used to disguise the stink caused by death. One custom was to wrap the body with herbs and linen. The body would be left until the bones could be collected into an ossuary box for storing in the family tomb. A famous chef once tried to use myrrh in his Christmas menu but failed because it was too bitter. Myrrh represents the vile pain and suffering we cause when we reject God and his ways. Jesus came as a human to suffer and die – to bring us salvation (Romans 5:6-11).
These three gifts highlight the full significance of what salvation in Jesus Christ really means to us. Through Jesus – and only through Jesus – we are healed and restored to God. “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
As we hear the Christmas tunes and carols, I pray that our hearts and minds are drawn to search the scriptures for truth and understanding as to why we celebrate the birth of Jesus. I also pray that we understand too, what this Jesus wants from us.
Study by Angela Hall
Nottingham Grace Communion
Lucy Brown Hall
Saturday 2:00 pm
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