“And going into the house they saw the child [Jesus] with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.”
— Matthew 2:11
Every year on Jan. 6, the Christian church celebrates the Epiphany of Our Lord. January 6th is the first day after the Christmas season which is 12 days long (yes, the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” is a reference to the 12 days of Christmas from the church calendar). The season that follows is Epiphany, and it begins with the account of the Magi from the East following the star to find Jesus.
The account of the magi visiting Jesus is only recorded in Matthew’s gospel. It is important to remember Matthew’s big themes – namely that the “kingdom of Heaven is near,” Jesus is the Son of God and that God is with His people in Jesus, and that Jesus is the promised Messiah. The gifts that the magi brough seem to indicate that they knew exactly who it was that they were looking for because the gifts they brought to Jesus tell exactly who he is and what He will do. Therefore, the gifts of the magi give us an epiphany moment, and the three gifts that the magi brought were gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Gold is gift that is fit for a king. Surely in Matthew gospel, we read again and again that the “Kingdom of Heaven is near.” If the Kingdome of Heaven is near, then the King himself is near in proximity. The gift of gold testify that Jesus is the King of not only the people of Israel but of all people, both on heaven and earth.
Frankincense is used for making sacrifices to God. It was commonly used in the temple in Jerusalem. It is also commonly used in churches of many denomination today to signify God’s presence – especially before the Lord’s Supper when Christian’s confess that God’s flesh and blood is in, with, and under the bread and wine.
Myrrh is used in the embalming process to preserve a dead body. Myrrh was used when Jesus was buried as John 19:39 records. This is the reason why Jesus came. He came to die as the atoning sacrifice for all. What’s more is that Matthew lists this gift last showing that this would be the main point of his gospel.
The gifts of the magi foretell the story of Jesus’ life and who He is. Jesus is the King of heaven and earth who came as a sacrifice to God. By His death all people are declared righteous before God. This is the at the heart of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Gospel which Christians believe. It is the reason why we always celebrate Christmas and attend Christmas services because if our God did not come into the flesh, if He is not incarnate, then our faith is nothing.
Have a blessed Epiphany season!