Here is my Christmas card to you- a paper collage. For some time now, I’ve been thinking about the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh that, in Matthew’s story, the scholars from the East brought to Jesus after they realized that a new king had been born near Jerusalem. Some say that the gold is fit for a king, therefore the symbolism of this gift is obvious. The next gift, the frankincense, was useful in physical and mental healing, and people burned the resin to carry their prayers to heaven. Therefore, the frankincense would show that Jesus was born to be our priest. The myrrh, also a resin, was used all over northern Africa, the Middle East, and Far East as an antiseptic and anti-inflammatory, and by the Egyptians in their embalming process. The gift of myrrh to the baby Jesus would symbolize that he was born to die for our sake. I think it is just as likely that the gifts as mentioned by the writer, Matthew, were not necessarily symbolic, except in retrospect, but were the most expensive and finest gifts that the scholars could bring to this strange and wonderful baby. They are all naturally-occurring substances and were hard to come by.
So, what would be our modern-day Western equivalents of gold, frankincense, and myrrh? We are surrounded by and we, as a group, covet expensive manufactured goods which also carry our status with them. So, perhaps today, if we were going to bring gifts to an important person, we would think of electronics, cars, and jewelry!