The Very First Christmas Presents
Entering the house, they saw the child with Mary His mother, and falling to their knees, they worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Matthew 2:11 HCSB
Frankincense, gold and myrrh. We gaze upon them every year in the hands of the Magi - on everything from children's scrawled masterpieces to elaborate lawn displays to live reenactments in the freezing cold.
What these scenes don't tell us is why.
Why did wealthy gentiles travel 2,000 miles to bring baby gifts to tiny Judea?
The answer stretches back to Balaam, the Babylonian seer, who foretold a rising star from Judah. Then, centuries later, a Jewish exile rose through the ranks to become a Persian magi. His name was Daniel.
Daniel prophesied that a Messiah would come to rescue and rule not only Jews, but all mankind. So when that new star finally rose in the east, these Persian astronomers - the Maji - recalled the prophecies and saddled up.
But the Magi weren't just astronomers. They were kingmakers. Literally. No one received the crown in Persia without first being vetted and approved by magi.
So these men came armed with gold, expressing their honor and submission to Jesus' ultimate, royal authority over all nations, not just little Judah.
Along with kingly gold, the Magi also brought frankincense. Frankincense held a prominent place in the ministry of the Old Testament priests.
So this fragrant gift pointed to Jesus' role as our Great High Priest. Not only did He direct people's hearts to God throughout His life, but on the Cross, Jesus performed the ultimate priestly duty, offering a perfect blood sacrifice to pay the price for our sin.
But the Magi didn't just bring kingly gold and priestly frankincense. They brought myrrh, an aromatic resin that often served as a perfume or deodorant. And also as an embalming agent.
With this final gift, the Magi anointed young Jesus as the Sacrifice. The King of Kings and Priest of Priests was born to die.
There is rich symbolism in each of the Magi's treasures, although they probably couldn't even begin to fathom it then. They were simply compelled to bring the long-awaited Messiah the most valuable gifts they could possibly offer.
And that is exactly what the Lord asks of us: not necessarily to understand, but in obedience to give Him our very best.
The Magi's willingness to bring Jesus their very best opened the way for them to receive an even greater treasure, the most valuable treasure of all: a personal relationship with the Lord of Heaven.
What Christmas present do you most want to receive this year? Is it a material gift - a gadget, some jewelry or getaway? Or is it something more serious - a healed body, new job, or restored relationship?
Pray that during this time, the Lord would speak to your heart about the gift He most wants to give you: Himself. Pray about what that would look like in your life, and how it might impact your view of all the other gifts - or lack of them - around you.
Lord, this week as I consider the birth of Jesus, the very Son of Almighty God, instill in me a desire to give Him the choicest gifts of my heart, my hands and my worship. In the name of my redeeming Messiah, Amen.
To learn more about the journey and gifts of the Magi, check out Tammy's advent devotional, "A Star Will Rise: The Old Testament Roots of the Magi and Their Gifts" (available at http://amzn.to/2df68UF and http://bit.ly/2dTLw3c )
© 2016 by Tammy Priest. All rights reserved.
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