Sunday, December 22, 2013
CHRISTMAS TRIVIA: The Tradition of the "gift"
The story of the wise men
After Jesus was born, wise men came to look for Him, from an area which is now in either Iran or Saudi Arabia. Although they are often called the "Three Kings", the Bible does not say how many there were, or that they were kings. Three is only a guess because they brought with them three gifts.
Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh
They were certainly men of learning - probably today we would call them philosophers or scientists. They had seen an unusual new star in the sky, and knew that it told of the birth of a special king. (The star they saw was probably a exploding "supernova" and is known from astronomical records.) They followed the direction of the star and eventually found the place where Mary, Joseph and Jesus were staying.
To bring honour to the child, they brought rich gifts: gold, frankincense (a resin which burns with a beautiful smell), and myrrh (plant oil with a very strong sweet smell). These gifts tell us in pictures three key things about Jesus:
Gold: a gift fit for a King
Frankincense: burnt in worship of God
Myrrh: a sign of mortal human-ness - it was used to bury the dead