I wonder how much thought you put into your Christmas presents? Is it something you spend all year thinking about? Carefully crafting the best purchase so you get the most effective present; something that brings tears of joy to the recipient and earns you the title of ‘Greatest gift-giver ever’? Or do you simply walk into Asda, grab a trolley, fill it with a random selection of Celebrations, Roses and Quality Street, grab some wrapping paper, sellotape and off you go... job done?!
Over the years I’ve had every intention of claiming that sought-after title only to resort at 5.00pm on Christmas Eve to the Quality Street plan.
Imagine though, knowing someone so well that you know exactly what to buy them. In fact, you know them so well you could buy them a Christmas gift which would not only mean something incredibly special to them on the day, but it would have a deep significance throughout their whole life, right to the day they died.
Well, we read in the Bible in Matthew chapter 2 of such people:
‘After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the East came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw His star when it rose and have come to worship Him.”’
Then we read: ‘On coming to the house, they saw the child with His mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.’
Whilst I’m sure young Jesus would have been very thankful for these gifts, those around Him may have questioned the Magi’s choice.
What the on-lookers perhaps didn’t realise was that the Magi knew more about this child than most, and that He was someone of whom each of these gifts represented a great deal.
Gold is a precious metal and one you might see a great deal of if you visited the Queen or royalty. This gift of gold to the child Jesus was symbolic of His divinity and His royalty. Not the normal kind of king, but one who would come to set people free and make all His followers members of His family.
Frankincense is a white resin or gum. It is very fragrant when burned and was, therefore, used in worship, where it was burned as a pleasant offering to God. Frankincense is a symbol of holiness. The gift of frankincense to Jesus was symbolic of what Jesus would grow up to become, a sacrifice, wholly giving Himself up, just like a burnt offering.
Myrrh is a spice and was used in embalming. It was also sometimes mixed with wine to form a drink. Such a drink was given to Jesus when he was about to be crucified. Myrrh symbolizes bitterness, suffering, and affliction. The baby Jesus would grow to suffer greatly as a man and would pay the ultimate price when He gave His life on the cross for all who would believe in Him.
Thousands of years later, millions of people all over the world remember that special time when Jesus was born and the Magi first saw the sign in the sky showing that everything had changed. They packed their gifts and off they travelled to worship their Saviour.
This Christmas, I pray that as you travel, give gifts and celebrate together, you come to realise what the Magi knew to be true; that Jesus came to this earth as a boy to grow up and to die on a cross as a sacrifice for humanity’s sins before rising again, having victory over death.