One of the most fascinating parts of the Christmas story is the coming of the Magi. When the Magi or Wise Men visited the baby Jesus they brought gifts to present to Him. It was customary that foreign emissaries and ambassadors would bring gifts to court the favor of royalty. This was especially true at the times of royal births. The Magi came to Jerusalem seeking the newborn king of Israel and did not find Jesus there. The Magi were directed to Bethlehem to search for Jesus there. Once they located Jesus they presented Joseph and Mary gifts for the birth of the King. Each of the three gifts represented an aspect of who Jesus is and what His mission was to fulfill. We are not given any indication of the amounts of each of the gifts or how many of the Magi were represented. The importance of the gifts was the message that each one conveyed about Jesus. The gold represented the fact that Jesus was royal. The frankincense supports the claim that Jesus is divine and the myrrh was for the importance of the mortality of Jesus.
1.) Gold: The gift of gold was often reserved for royalty. The Magi told King Herod that they had come to see the one born King of the Jews. It is clear that they recognized Jesus as being royal but the question is why? The issue is the star of Bethlehem. The Magi had seen the star and they recognized the importance of the star in the sky as a sign of a spectacular birth. The Magi brought gold in some form, whether it was jewelry, coins, or just pieces, we are not told. The importance of the gift was that it represented the fact that Jesus was royal.
2.) Frankincense: The gift of frankincense is somewhat unusual. Frankincense was a highly valued commodity and somewhat rare. The Jewish people had a common use for frankincense that was directly connected to the worship of God. In the Temple, the Jews prayed before the Altar of Incense which was always kept burning. The substance burned on that altar was frankincense. When frankincense is burned it gives off a sweet smelling white smoke. The smoke rising from the altar of incense represented the prayers of the people rising to God in heaven. The only use of frankincense for Jews was at this altar and it was reserved for the worship of God. The Magi presenting this gift to Jesus represents the fact that He was indeed divine.
3.) Myrrh: The gift of myrrh seems the most odd of the gifts. Myrrh was extremely valuable and had a number of uses. The most common use was a perfume. Sometimes myrrh might be used in the homes of the wealthy to create a pleasant fragrance but was normally reserved for special instances. The major use of myrrh was for burials. Myrrh was placed on the cloths used to wrap bodies for burial to help prevent the smell of decay following death. The Magi presented this gift to Jesus as a representation that He would one day die. The gift almost seems to convey the fact that Jesus was born to die.
Though there are still many questions about the Magi that may be left unanswered, we can determine that they brought a fourth gift that is often forgotten by many. After they laid their treasures down before Mary and Joseph, they worshipped Jesus. These wise men from afar came not just to court favor but to proclaim that they believed Him to be the King of kings. The greatest gift that we can offer to Jesus this Christmas is our praise and worship.