What do you give the Saviour? Amongst all the hustle and bustle of the latest wish lists and commercialism that modern day Christmas has become, what do you give to the person the very day represents?
The wise men (or Magi) brought gold, frankincense and myrrh.
The gold was a gift to represent Kingship. Gold is a precious metal, and is still representative of status even in this generation. It tends to be expensive and therefore shows value. The idea that many have when purchasing gold for a loved one is to give them a gift of value. The same idea is behind the gift of gold to Jesus. Jesus would later be mocked and called “King of the Jews” by a sign that hung above him as he died. Aside from that title, Christians see Jesus as an ambassador of the Kingdom of God. He is worthy of the title King.
Frankincense is an odd gift for a baby. It was used as incense, and it was to represent the Priesthood of Christ. Traditionally, Jewish priests were chosen by their linage, all coming from the Tribe of Levi, and Jesus was born as a descendant of the tribe of Judah, so normally he would never have been seen as a Priest by Jewish people then. The magi were asserting the truth that Jesus was indeed a Priest, and in fact the Priest, even though others wouldn’t have seen him in this regard. Interestingly enough, frankincense is a healer, known especially for taking away physical pain. Jesus also was a healer, known for taking away all pain – physical and emotional. He is worthy of being recognized as divine priest and healer.
Lastly, they gave Jesus myrrh. This was in the form of oil used for anointing, or basically to bless or protect. This goes back to something commonly known in Jesus’ day. Sheppard’s would cover a sheep’s head in oil so that bugs that would normally kill a sheep couldn’t get to their nose or ears to kill them. The sheep was protected because of the oil. This then became a symbol for blessing often done to priests, and to connect it to Jesus, it was to represent the blessing God had over his life, as well as the protection from the evil one. There is also an extra symbol in that Jesus is referred to as the “Lamb” of God – lambs were used as sacrifices to atone for one’s sin, which Jesus does for all on the cross. The myrrh was symbolic of the death that was to come, a preparatory step to prepare Jesus’ body for the death he would ensure. He is worthy of being anointed and blessed, he who gave up his life for all.
All three things have deep symbolic and practical significance. There are so many other things you can read and learn about the importance of those gifts.
But, the “Baby Jesus” grew up, he taught, he died, he rose again and ascended to heaven. So what do we give a Saviour now that we know he’s no longer a baby?
Jesus said: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40, ESV).
Loving God with all your heart, soul and mind is the first commandment. Jesus modelled this by spending time alone with God, through prayer and through reading the Scriptures (at his time, just the Old Testament). Jesus spent his ministry time modelling a deep level of affection for God, and gave many practical examples of how this looks. The benefit is the more we love God with our heart, soul and mind, the less we elevate ourselves.
It is all too easy to think about only me, me, me, especially in this individualistic culture that we live in. One thing I know for certain is the more I love me, the more I get trapped in an endless cycle in which I will never win, because I will never get all that I think I deserve. On the flip side, the more time I spend reflecting on the magnitude of God, the glory He has shown me, the blessings all around me the more that my heart fills with gratitude and love, and the selfish tendencies within me weaken.
Next, Jesus tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves. What he means is to treat every single person as we wish to be treated. So this Christmas, the greatest gift we can give is the gift of love. This is practical: find the need and fill it. If you can’t afford to give, then give your time or energy. If you are strapped for time and cash, then give your best wishes and pray for people. There is an abundance of ways to show love for and to others.
The perfect Christmas gift doesn’t have the most value, or the best reaction. Nor does it contain the shiniest or fanciest things. It’s simple: the greatest gift you can give anyone is genuine and unconditional love, the reciprocation of the love you have felt because of the Saviour.