Where did Christmas gift giving come from? If we go back to the first Christmas story when God sent Jesus to earth, we recall that Jesus was given three gifts by the three wise men or Magi, which serve as the inspiration for all our Christmas gift giving today.
The Magi presented Jesus with gold, frankincense and myrrh. These gifts were very prophetic for they spoke of our Lord’s offices of King, Priest, and Savior.
GOLD: This carries obvious significance. It’s precious and worthy across all cultures and times. It’s a gift fit for royalty. It says to the Christ child, You will be a King
FRANKINCENSE: The name for this resin likely comes from incense of Franks since Frankish Crusaders reintroduced it to Europe. Although it is better known as “frankincense” to westerners the resin is also known as olibanum, which is derived from the Arabic al-lub (“the milk”) a reference to the milky sap tapped from the Boswellia tree. Frankincense has been touted for its medicinal and soothing properties. Herbalists say it is calming, restorative, gently clarifying, and meditative. Frankincense oil is thought to have stimulating, toning, and warming properties. The ancient world used it for treating depression. We recognize the word incense in its name. Ancient people burned frankincense, believing it to carry their prayers to heaven. Its use as incense illustrates His role as our Priest.
MYRRH: This is perhaps the most mysterious of the Gifts. It is a resin produced by a small, tough, scraggly tree that grows in semi-desert regions of North Africa and the Red Sea. Myrrh is an Arabic word for bitter, and it is considered a wound healer because of its strong antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. Calling it mo yao, the Chinese used it for centuries to treat wounds, bruises and bleeding and to relieve painful swelling.
The Egyptians made it famous in Biblical times, having acquired myrrh about the fifteenth century B.C. from Africa where cammiphora trees were abundant. It was used in incense, perfumes and holy ointments and also medicinally as recorded in the Ebers Papyrus. But its most notable use to them was that of an embalming material, used in Egyptian mummies. As an embalming ointment it signified that He was born to Die for the world. In fact, Myrrh was one of the burial spices of Jesus (John 19:39).
Although these were very expensive and now legendary gifts, they fall far short of the greatest gift given to men:
For the wages of sin is death, but the FREE GIFT OF GOD is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the GIFT OF GOD, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!
-2 Corinthians 9:15
Merry Christmas everyone.