Why do we give presents as Christmastime? Some say it was because St. Nicholas was a giver of gifts, but it's origin as pertains to the Bible is from the following passage:
Matthew 2:11 "And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.
The gifts given to the baby Jesus were gifts of hope! They honored his birth, but represented his death and resurrection! Jesus was born to die. The gifts made to the newborn were gifts of wisdom and prophecy. Not only did they represent the hope of Jesus's mission, but acknowledged the hope of Christ to come from the early days of tabernacle and temple worship. Our antecedents knew Jesus and used gold, frankincense and myrrh in their worship hundreds of years before Jesus was born. Why? Because Jesus was already with them. They knew Jesus!
Let's take the gift of gold first. It's the easy one! The word "gold" is Latin for "glow of sunrise". Jesus's tomb was empty at sunrise. His resurrection was the "glow" for mankind. That glow is "hope"! Coincidence? I think not! Gold nuggets are the "rocks" found in stream beds of running water. Jesus is the "rock of our salvation"! (Psalm 18:2). Jesus's was buried in a tomb hewn from rock! Jesus was the "stone" of Christianity!
Ephesians 2:20 "And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;"
Gold represents Jesus and his royalty! Jesus was royalty because he is God. Heaven is his throne and the earth is his footstool. God's abode was on the "mercy seat" atop the arc of the covenant. It was a seat of gold!
Hebrews 9:4 "Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant; 5 And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat; of which we cannot now speak particularly."
Gold, being found in running water, which represents the living water which Jesus is (John 4:10).
Since recorded history gold has been the standard of value due to its beauty, purity and utility. Gold represents love, hope, wealth, power, strength, warmth, happiness, hope, justice, knowledge, and perfection among many others. All these attributes of qualities possessed by Jesus! Again, I ask "A coincidence that Jesus was honored by gold?" I think not!
Gold represents Immanuel, "God with Us", the life of Jesus. The royalty of Jesus was displayed on the sign at the top of the cross. He was even declared king by his assassins! Yes, Jesus was a nugget of gold!
Myrrh was another gift. It's not common to the western world, but Asia and Asia Minor have known of it's qualities throughout history. In ancient times it was worth its weight in gold. It indeed was a gift for royalty and was befitting the birth of the new born King!
Myrrh is from the Aramaic language. This was the common man's language at the time of Jesus and Jesus spoke Aramaic. Myrrh means "was bitter". Bitters were offered to Jesus on Calvary.
Mark 15:22 "And they bring him unto the place Golgotha, which is, being interpreted, The place of a skull. 23 And they gave him to drink wine mingled with myrrh: but he received it not. 24 And when they had crucified him, they parted his garments, casting lots upon them, what every man should take.
Myrrh points toward the sacrifice Jesus was to make for mankind!
When people harvest myrrh, they "wound" the trees repeatedly to "bleed" them of the gum. As the trees were "wounded" to save the sap to make the myrrh, so was Jesus "wounded" to save our souls!
1 Peter 2:24 (ESV) "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. "
Just as Jesus, by being wounded, healed mankind, myrrh was taken from a wounded tree to that we may be healed. Here's why: Myrrh is excellent for skin conditions, is helpful in toning and soothing aged skin. Myrrh oil is also used as medicine for various skin conditions, bronchitis, diseases of the lungs and even hemorrhoids. Myrrh was even used by the ancient Egyptians for the embalming of mummies. Jesus in his death was preserved by myrrh:
John 19:38 "And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus. 39 And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. 40 Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury."
Myrrh was given to Jesus at his birth as a picture of his healing for us, his own wounds, and even his death! Those wise men were surely divinely inspired!
Myrrh, as well as frankincense, was an ingredient used in the consecrated incense used in the Temples at Jerusalem. God loved the pleasing aroma of the incense even back in the tabernacle! As he rested on the mercy seat, incense was offered with the meat offering, as it was the atonement of the sins of the people. Incense represents mercy which God has given for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus was most merciful, sacrificing himself!
Myrrh represents the death and resurrection of Jesus!
That third gift to the baby Jesus was frankincense, the word coming from Old French, meaning "high quality incense" which is a tree resin having a spicy and fruity fragrance and is soothing to the lungs. It helps to rejuvenate and tone mature skin. It's used for anxiety, problems of the lungs, scars, and stress.
Frankincense is tapped from the small Boswellia trees by slashing the bark, and allowing the resin to bleed out and harden, which are called "tears".
"Slashing" is the application of stripes on the bark of the tree. Just as frankincense (and myrrh) is bled from a tree, Jesus blood flowed freely from a "tree", the cross (Acts 5:30). Jesus wounds were from being slashed with a whip:
1 Peter 2:24 "Who his (Jesus) own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed."
Just as the Boswellia tree is slashed and bled to bleed a healing liquid Jesus was slashed and bled to heal or sins; to save us. Frankincense represents the crucifixion of Jesus!
The hardened Frankincense is called "tears" It's the result of slashing and bleeding of the resin. Jesus had tears. He cried for us!
Mark 15:37 "And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost."
The "tears" of frankincense are a picture of the tears of Jesus. Yes, Jesus cried real tears. Those tears were for you!
Leviticus 2:1 above spoke of frankincense used to accompany the "meat offering". That too is a picture of Jesus on the Cross. Jesus was the "meat offering" which was then used as a sacrifice to atone for the sins of the people, Jesus's "meat offering" was to atone for the sins of all! He was the meat. He was the offering. He offered himself for us!
Frankincense is a representation of the his grace and death!
Those were three thoughtful gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh. Each had significance. They honored the King. They told the story of why he was born. He was born to die and those magi knew that! God inspired them. They had discernment! While they came to honor the birth of Jesus, they came also to celebrate his life and death. Their gifts reflected that!
The gifts of the magi had significance. They weren't meant for pleasure and enjoyment. They were tokens of worship. Jesus and his family would care little for the material gifts, but much for the picture of Jesus; his purpose in this world!
When we give gifts to celebrate Christ's birth, is what we give and how we give it reverent and honorable? Are our gifts for pleasure and enjoyment, or is there some signficance to what we give? Giving a video game in remembrance of Jesus isn't likely as meaningful as a gift to represent our own commitment in honor of Jesus, the reason for the season. Giving love is the gift that keeps on giving! What can you give which "loves"?
Personally, I cherish a card or note with a loving message written. One serious and applicable. It means something. A photo of the giver is great, maybe even framed. A photo of the giver and me together is even more appreciative. It signifies unity. Love is the message of Christmas! Kick the "giving just to give" habit and "give meaningfully" just as the magi did! Now you know.