The wise men gave Jesus the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Each of these three gifts correspond to aspects of Jesus’s identity and redemptive mission in the world. The gold is symbolic of Jesus’s royalty. Jesus wasn’t the King of an earthly empire, but the King of the cosmos. He is the one through whom and by whom all things were created (Col. 1:6). He is the preeminent One; the Son of God. He is the Prince of Peace and King of kings. It is by his word that the universe is upheld (Heb .1:3).
The frankincense symbolizes that Jesus is a priest. Like Moses, Jesus is an intermediary between God and people. Like the priests who served in Solomon’s temple, Jesus makes a means to provide access to the throne-room of heaven. In Jesus, heaven and earth meet. Without Jesus, there’s no communion with the Father (Ps. 110:4; Heb. 5:56; 7:26).
The myrrh is a reminder that Jesus, while a king and priest, is also a suffering servant. Myrrh was used to embalm bodies for burial. When the wise men gave Jesus myrrh as a birthday present, it was the equivalent of giving a new born baby the gift of a tombstone. Myrrh is a reminder that Jesus was born to die. Death was his mission. Jesus could have performed all the miracles in the world, but if he didn’t die in our place, the mission would have been a failure. In Jesus God came to die, so that we may live (John 3:16). Jesus was born to bear our griefs and carry our sorrows. He was pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed (Is. 53:4–5).
One of the themes of Christmas is joy. Having four young children, I witness and share that childlike joy every single day, especially as Christmas approaches. As the house is filled with the smell of Christmas cookies, balsam and cedar, and Christmas music plays against the sound of kids’ laughter, each day is marked by the joy of the season.
No doubt, the source of that joy for the kids is the anticipation of presents. For the adults, often times it’s the joy that comes with Christmas traditions and time with family and friends. There’s a deeper joy that comes with Christmas, however, that doesn’t go away once the holidays pass. It is the joy of knowing that Jesus died on our behalf. It is the joy of knowing that Jesus has overcome the world.
Famous missionary E. Stanley Jones says this:
Jesus said, “In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Note, not “I will overcome the world,” but “have.” Everything I meet he has already met – in every situation I face a defeated foe. When sin and temptation and trials try to bully me, I quietly ask them to bend their necks. And when they do, I point out with joy: “I thought so; there is the footprint of the Son of God upon your neck.”E. Stanley Jones
THIS is the joy of Christmas. This Christmas Eve remember that Jesus came so that in every situation we face a defeated foe. In this, we will find that joy that abides eternally.