Nate’s Notes: Gifts for the Newborn King

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 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. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. Matthew 2:7-12 NIV

Dave Barry in his Notes on Western Civilization, Chicago Tribune Magazine, July 28, 1991 wrote:

To avoid offending anybody, the school dropped religion altogether and started singing about the weather. At my son’s school, they now hold the winter program in February and sing increasingly non-memorable songs such as “Winter Wonderland,” “Frosty the Snowman” and–this is a real song–“Suzy Snowflake,” all of which is pretty funny because we live in Miami. A visitor from another planet would assume that the children belonged to the Church of Meteorology.

If aliens visited our homes in December what would they notice? Would they conclude that Christmas is about Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph, and Santa, or would they see the deeper meaning of Christmas? I did not go to church as a child. When my father died, my mom quit going to church and no one taught me about Jesus. Before I became a Christian, I only cared about presents on December 25th. I selfishly thought of my own need for toys. I appreciated the G.I.J.O.E. and Transformer figures they no longer interested me after a few months. I remembered kids talking about Baptists and Methodists on the school bus, but I had no idea who they were because I did not know about Jesus.

Fortunately, the Lord used a minister and his son to lead me to Christ in middle school. What caused the most joy was learning that God is my Father. I lost both my father and stepfather, but I know that Abba Father cares for me. I now prefer Silent Night to Winter Wonderland. Isn’t it interesting that the wise men did not receive presents? They gave them to the newborn king. Christmas today is the opposite of what happened in Bethlehem. Why did the wise men give Jesus gifts?

According to the Biblical Archaeology Society, Biblical scholars and theologians have offered varying interpretations of the meaning and significance of the gold, frankincense, and myrrh that the Magi presented to Jesus, according to the Gospel of Matthew (2:11). These valuable items were standard gifts to honor a king or deity in the ancient world: gold as a precious metal, frankincense as perfume or incense, and myrrh as anointing oil. In fact, these same three items were apparently among the gifts, recorded in ancient inscriptions, that King Seleucus II Callinicus offered to the god Apollo at the temple in Miletus in 243 B.C.E. The Book of Isaiah, when describing Jerusalem’s glorious restoration, tells of nations and kings who will come and “bring gold and frankincense and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord” (Isaiah 60:6). Although Matthew’s gospel does not include the names or number of the magi, many believe that the number of the gifts is what led to the tradition of the Three Wisemen.

In addition to the honor and status implied by the value of the gifts of the Magi, scholars think that the Wisemen chose them for their special spiritual symbolism about Jesus himself—gold representing his kingship, frankincense a symbol of his priestly role, and myrrh a prefiguring of his death and embalming—an interpretation made popular in the well-known Christmas carol “We Three Kings.

We three kings of Orient are; bearing gifts we traverse afar, field and fountain, moor, and mountain, following yonder star.

Refrain

O star of wonder, star of light, star with royal beauty bright, westward leading, still proceeding, guide us to thy perfect light. 

Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain, gold I bring to crown him again, King forever, ceasing never, over us all to reign.

Refrain

Frankincense to offer have I; incense owns a Deity nigh; prayer and praising, voices raising, worshiping God on high.

Refrain

Myrrh is mine; its bitter perfume breathes a life of gathering gloom; sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying, sealed in the stone-cold tomb.

Refrain

Glorious now behold him arise; King and God and sacrifice: Alleluia, Alleluia,

sounds through the earth and skies.

Refrain 

Prayer: Heavenly Father thank you for demonstrating your love through the gift of Your Son. May we worship in humility as the Magi did before the baby Jesus. May we have a heart of gratitude and joy for all of your many blessings. No matter what happens with our families this Christmas, may we reflect on how we are members of Your family. In the majestic name of Jesus, we pray, amen

Nathan

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