We hurriedly scour the malls, boutiques, and Christmas bazaars in search of the perfect gift. The dinner planning, the decorations, the fear of “maybe he won’t like this or that” – somewhere in all the chaos the true meaning of Christmas gets muddled. “Merry Christmas” is synonymous with overeating, overspending, and under satisfying. Not to mention, all we end up with is dirty dishes, crumpled wrapping paper, and gifts we hate or do not need.
How did we get to this point? How did the celebration of God’s ultimate gift to the world get so distorted in commercialism and lack of self-control? Sure, God gave to us, but what are we supposed to give to Him and others? In Matthew 2:11, the Bible speaks of the Magi/wise men who gave to Jesus: “They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” The gifts that were presented show us the thoughtfulness of the Magi/wise men. These regal offerings were expensive, meaningful, and have a very deep meaning.
In the ancient world, gold was the ultimate symbol of genuine worth and great value. It was used to mold idols, build temples, and adorn royalty. Throughout the Bible the presence of gold conveys purity and deity. The wise men came to Jerusalem and asked, "Where is he that is born King of the Jews?" (Matthew 2:2) because they knew who He was and the significance of His birth.
Frankincense is a hard, white gum that comes from a large, pink-flowering tree. When the gum comes out of the tree it hardens quickly and is very aromatic when burned. In the Old Testament, it was used in ceremonial offerings. As the sacrifices burned, a powerful fragrance accompanied the rising smoke. “This gift of frankincense shows that the wise men knew that Jesus was more than a king - He was God the Son, God incarnate” (R.L. Hymers, “The First Christmas”).
Myrrh is a costly perfume made from the gum of a tree/shrub in Arabia, which is drawn out by making incisions into the bark. It was used for embalming bodies. As an anesthetic, this substance was mixed with wine and presented to Jesus on the cross in Mark 15:23 (but He refused it bearing the full pain and suffering for our sins). “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Jesus came into this world to die for our sins. From the very beginning, it was known that He must die and be resurrected so that we may live.
Yet, there was still a greater gift these wise men brought from afar. These Gentiles brought the gift of their worship. With joy and obedience (Matthew 2:10, 12), they sought out Jesus, and worshipped Him - even at great cost. Instead of emptying our plates/pockets/time at Christmas, we should empty ourselves as we offer praises, merriment, and a life that gives life to all. Jesus has already paid the price; all we have to do is offer the gift of Christ and/or share our blessings out of a heart of worship.