When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
We often think of the wise men being at the nativity scene with the shepherds and the angels, but the wise men didn’t make their appearance until after the initial fanfare. We don’t know if they were actually kings (contrary to the popular hymn) and we don’t actually know if there were only three who came to Mary, Joseph, and the Christ Child. All we are told is that they offered three gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, and that they took another route back to where they came from in order to avoid the King Herod’s wrath. But that’s about all we know… That’s all the Gospel writers thought we needed in terms of familiarizing ourselves with these wise men.
Setting aside the trivial details let us take a moment to reflect on the gifts that were offered to the Christ Child…
Gold, frankincense, and myrrh were all traditional gifts that were given to rulers. Gold is pretty obvious in the fact that it is expensive, frankincense was used as a perfume, and myrrh was used for anointing oil. It would be the early Greek theologian Origen, who would symbolize these three gifts by saying, “gold, as to a king; myrrh, as to one who is mortal; frankincense (incense), as to a God.”
So what gift are we going to bring to the Christ Child, to the one who is called Emmanuel? While we may not be offering gifts of gold, frankincense, or myrrh, what might we offer to the one who provides salvation and life for all? There are gifts of time, talents, and prayer that we can offer to the one who came to earth. As we near the beginning of a new year, let us take time to reflect and ponder on what gift we will bring to Christ Jesus.