Magi (wise men) had seen a peculiar star in the sky, and they knew it represented the fulfillment of prophecy that a new king of Israel had arrived. They first traveled to Jerusalem, thinking the king would be there, but he wasn’t. King Herod instructed them to go find him. So they left Jerusalem and went in the direction of the star, believing perhaps the star would point the way to the child, which it did. But where was that actually? Where did the wise men finally catch up to Jesus? Some scholars believe the star led them to Bethlehem, where Mary and Joseph returned after going briefly to Jerusalem to dedicate Jesus at the temple. Others, however, think the wise men didn’t catch up to Jesus until over a year (or maybe two) later, when the family had moved to Egypt for a short time.
At any rate, they traveled until they discovered the place where Jesus was—and he was certainly no longer in the manger. Joseph, Mary, and Jesus were now at a house. Matthew tells us in chapter 2, verse 11:
On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. (Matthew 2:11)
The Magi marked their visit to Jesus with the presentation of three precious gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These gifts were not chosen at random, but held deep significance, symbolizing aspects of Jesus’s identity and his mission. Did the Magi know the full significance of these gifts when they brought them? We don’t know for sure. But we do know in hindsight that all three gifts had special meaning.
Gold, a symbol of royalty, served as a reminder that Jesus was truly a king. Frankincense is a type of resin that produces an aroma, and it was often used in religious ceremonies. This points to Jesus having a spiritual or divine component. And myrrh, another fragrant resin, was used in burial preparations, foreshadowing Jesus’s sacrificial death on the cross.
His kingship, divinity, and sacrificial death are foreshadowed by the three gifts the wise men brought.
Just as the wise men presented meaningful gifts to Jesus, we all have meaningful gifts to offer. What gifts can you bring? It might be your time, talents, or resources. You can bring whatever you have as a gift to further God’s kingdom.
Heavenly Father, help me see whatever gifts I have as something I can use for your sake and to point people to Jesus. Amen.
If you’re familiar with the Christmas story, it can be easy to read it with a bit of a romanticized or storybook view. The reality is that those involved in the actual events weren’t that different from us.