shadow of three men on three camels in the desert
The three wise on camelback. (Photo: John Dory /

By Joseph Delgado, Guest Faith Contributor, Valley Ag Voice

It’s that time of year again! Pools are full, fireworks fill the sky, and you’ve probably spent some time around a BBQ. I’m willing to bet that you’re preoccupied with planning family vacations and camp adventures and the last thing on your mind is a stable filled with shepherds, cattle, and Mary rocking baby Jesus to sleep. Did that just catch you off guard?! Are you even a tad bit surprised that we’d be discussing a chilly silent night while you’ve just finished your third slice of watermelon on a lawn chair in your backyard? In the spirit of surprises and considering that we’re halfway through the year and quickly approaching one of the most popular holidays in the world, I’ve decided to celebrate a little Christmas in July by studying a SURPRISE we find in the widely known Christmas account that is often overlooked.

One of the most widely debated aspects of the Christmas story revolves around the elements given to Jesus by the wise men. The bible reads “going into the house [the wise men] saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh” (English Standard Version Matthew 2:11). For centuries, scholars have pondered the significance of these gifts and why they were appropriate to give to a divine two-year-old boy. On his commentary in The English Standard Version Study Bible, Michael Wilkins believes that these gifts had a practical use that would assist the family in fleeing to Egypt to escape King Herod’s decree to put to death all males under the age of two in hopes to kill the prophesied king of the Jews (ESV Matt. 2:16). Wilkins states, “Frankincense is resin used ceremonially for the only incense permitted on the altar (ESV Exodus 30:9, 34–38). Myrrh is sap used in incense and perfume and as a stimulant tonic. The gifts were likely used providentially to support the family in their flight to Egypt.” 1 These incredibly expensive gifts could have been used for ceremonial and religious practices or could have easily been sold to purchase food and shelter for the family on their journey. The Believers Bible Commentary approaches the significance of the gifts in a more symbolic fashion in which each gift represents and foreshadows the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. The commentary reads “Gold is a symbol of deity and glory; it speaks of the shining perfection of [Jesus’] divine Person. Frankincense is an ointment or perfume; it suggests the fragrance of the life of sinless perfection. Myrrh is a bitter herb; it presages the sufferings He would endure in bearing the sins of the world.” 2 So, what is the correct way to interpret what is being taught in Matthew’s account? Why not both? The gifts were a divine provision from God for Mary’s family while simultaneously being documented to encourage Matthew’s audience and readers today that He has provided for us a way to enjoy eternal life in Jesus through Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. As I’ve preached on this subject over the years, I’ve come to form a title that I believe captures the heart of the Father and the message of Christmas. If we look closely, we can see The Gospel in the Gifts.

1 Crossway Bibles. The ESV Study Bible. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008. Print.

2 MacDonald, William. Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. Ed. Arthur Farstad. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995. Print.

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