Bible Reading: Matthew 2:11-12 & Isaiah 53:1-12
Contrary to popular opinion, the wise men did not arrive at the Nativity scene. They arrived sometime later, when Christ was no longer in a stable, but a house. Upon entering the house, they immediately “saw the young child with Mary his mother.” It was the child that they sought, however, that was the focus of their attention. Likewise, as the Scripture admonishes us, we need to make Christ the focus of our attention (Hebrews 12:1-2). According to Lilias Trotter, who served for over thirty years as a missionary to Algeria’s Muslims, if we “turn [our] eyes upon Jesus [and] look full into His face [we will] find that the things of earth will acquire a strange new dimness.”
The moment the wise men saw Him they worshiped Him, as do all who truly see Him, for “He is altogether lovely” ( Song of Solomon 5:16). In their worship, they presented to Him gifts, just as Paul instructs us to do in Romans 12:1: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (ESV). The gift required of us in our worship of God is not gold, frankincense and myrrh, however, but the gift of ourselves (2 Corinthians 8:5).
The gifts of the Magi are both poignant and prophetic. To begin with, the gift of gold was a gift to a king. This newborn babe before whom the Magi bowed was the King of kings and Lord of lords. He was destined to sit upon the throne of David and reign over the Kingdom of God forever. How appropriate, then, that the Magi should give to Him the gift of gold. No king was ever more deserving.
The gift of frankincense was a gift for a priest, one who served as a mediator between God and man. It was used on certain prescribed temple sacrifices and also on the altar of incense to symbolize priestly intercession. As our High Priest, Jesus Christ is our Mediator (1 Timothy 2:5), our Intercessor (Hebrews 7:25), and He who has put away our sins once and for all by the sacrifice of Himself on the Cross of Calvary (Hebrews 9:26). How appropriate, then, that the Magi should give to Him who is our “High Priest forever after the order of Melchizedek” the gift of frankincense (Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 5:6; 6:20; 7:17; 7:21).
Finally, the gift of myrrh spoke of the infant Savior’s coming suffering and death, since myrrh was used as a medicine for the suffering and in the embalming of the dead. This newborn babe before whom the Magi bowed was born to suffer and die for the sins of the world (Isaiah 53:1-12). How appropriate, then, that the Magi should give to the Child born to suffer and die in the stead of all sinners the foreboding gift of myrrh.
Interestingly, when Christ returns He will once again be given the gifts of gold and incense (Isaiah 60:6). However, He will never again be given the gift of myrrh. Although Christ came the first time for His crucifixion—to suffer and die for the sins of the world—He is coming the second time for His coronation—in glory and power to rule and reign over the Kingdom of God forever.
What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb;
If I were a wise man
I would do my part, —
Yet what I can, I give Him,
I give Him my heart. (Christina Georgina Rossetti)