Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh
A couple of months ago, having just read the Autumn ezine, a friend of mine asked me, ‘So, what are you going to write about in your Christmas ezine?, and immediately I replied, ‘…about Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh.’ The strange thing is that I knew very little about the latter two (and little experience with the first) apart from knowing they were gifts brought to the baby Jesus, by some wise men from the East. I had no idea what else I would be writing about, considering my ignorance about them. But somehow I knew that they were going to feature in my next ezine. What they had in connection with Javelin Success, I also had no clue.
Since then, I have found out so much about them. It’s amazing how when you tell others that you are going to do something, that it actually helps with your own indecision or procrastination of getting the task done and it’s also amazing the way the mind begins to think and make connections. So please bear with me. I have been known to ramble, but hopefully it will make sense in the end. You may wish to sit down with a tea or coffee to read this one!
The story of the wise men bringing gifts to Jesus gives us more than a picture of Jesus as, Just a baby.
These were three very special gifts.
But why are they so important?
Well firstly, they were extremely expensive. Only the wealthiest of people could have afforded them. They were gifts fit for a king. And it’s not that gifts have to be expensive to be important, the significance about the cost was that these men recognised the baby as a King.
Following the star which brought them to the promised child, showed that they were learned men who knew about the stars and of signs and of prophesy too. In contrast, the poor shepherds were not learned men and did not know about the Christ child. But God had his own intervention and announced His Son’s birth through a whole host of angels!
What an honour!
I’ve looked and I can’t find if the shepherds brought any gifts, but they did go and visit Him and tell others all about Him. (See note ‘1’ at the end and listen to the voice of an ‘angel’ to Gabriel’s Oboe)
The first gift from the wise men that we hear of is gold.
Many hundreds of years ago people associated Gold with God. They had gold in their temples. Gold was a symbol of deity. Jesus was seen as much more than a human child.
There was an acknowledgement of His deity, by the giving of this gift.
Some scholars suggest that the gold spoken of in the bible was not actually referring to the golden metal, but to a golden spice (what is known as turmeric today – also known for its healing qualities). Whether it was a golden metal or a golden spice, both were highly valued at that time and used to trade.
The second gift mentioned was Frankincense.
Now, this is the one, for some reason, that I have explored the most. Finding out about it has been fascinating!
Frankincense is an aromatic resin used in incense, essential oil and perfumes, obtained from trees known as Boswellia sacra. A most expensive frankincense is sourced in Oman. The bark is cut and the resin left to bleed out of it. The ‘gum’ is then gathered and dried until it hardens and sold.
It can be burned and the smoke inhaled, the essential oils can be used for medicinal purposes, and some people even eat it! I learned this not only by reading but by watching ‘The Frankincense Trail’ (2), an intriguing documentary, presented on TV by the captivating and intrepid Kate Humble! (I’ve included a YouTube link for you at the end of the ezine which shows her journey and story of the Frankincense trade from Oman to Israel.)
Frankincense can offer a variety of health benefits. The healing aspect of this gift also made me think of Jesus, as the Healer, not just the baby.
Frankincense has been used for healing wounds for centuries and, is known as an anti-depressant an anti-anxiety agent when inhaled. It has analgesic and sedative properties. Also known as an anti-inflammatory and pain reliever, it is able to boost immunity, to clear up congestion in the lungs and apparently reverse lung cancer, which was complete news to me. It has been used for over 5000 years and it also gives off a perfume and was used to keep people smelling less repulsive, when little was known about the benefits of daily bathing!!
Frankincense seems like an all-round gift to me and if I can manage to afford some of it, it’s going to be on my next shopping list!
Within some Christian communities, it has also traditionally been burned alongside worship. The second gift to the Christ child is not just an acknowledgment of His deity but that there is a call to action here, to put into practice, how we respond to His deity, i.e. putting into practice our service to him and others and of the meaning of worship.
Myrrh is the third gift and is also prized for its healing properties.
It is obtained from a tree called the Commiphora, and is no less in value.
This is also found in Africa and the Middle East.
Its special purpose? Well, it is associated with death and embalming, because of its perfume. The oil produced from it is also thought of as a holy oil. This seems like a strange gift for a baby. We don’t normally give gifts to babies that are associated with death, but some Christian historians suggest that it may have been symbolic of his death to come and also of his holiness.
The gifts had symbolism, meaning and practical purpose.
The more I thought of the giving of these gifts I began to think, well what is a gift?
Does it stop being a gift, if it is given of obligation? Many people give gifts at Christmas and birthdays because it is the thing to do. It’s a cultural tradition. They would look bad if they didn’t return a gift. But that isn’t necessarily the best reason to give. Is it? But then, you may be thinking, well the wise men gave gifts that were an obligation. It was obligatory cultural tradition of the day that they gave gifts to Kings. (It’s still our tradition today) They saw Jesus as King and brought gifts that were, indeed, fit for a King. But something tells me that their gifts were also appropriate rather than solely an obligation. Thought had been put into them.
Were they given in love?
Perhaps… Well, there was definitely no expectation that they would receive anything in return. Joseph and Mary were not rich people. Joseph was a carpenter and Mary a very young mum. So in that sense there was no obligation, because the wise men were not expecting anything in return.
This giving without reward reminds me of a short story called ‘The Gift’ by Bennet Cerf. I came across it in the well-known book ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’ which is a collection of stories by the famous Jack Canfield and Mark Hanson. (I found it in a second hand book store for about 50p, retail price had been £10.99 – a most excellent bargain).
Anyway, the story takes place on a bus bumping along a back road. In one seat a wispy old man sat holding a bunch of fresh flowers. Across the aisle was a young girl whose eyes came back again and again to the man’s flowers. The time came for the old man to get off. Impulsively, he thrust the flowers into the girl’s lap. ” I can see you love the flowers”, he explained, “and I think my wife would like for you to have them. I’ll tell her I gave them to you.” The girl accepted the flowers, then watched the old man get off the bus and walk through the gate of a small cemetery.
The story speaks for itself!
The gifts from the wise men were also symbolic as I’ve just tried to show above, telling something about the future of the baby. And sometimes it is the symbolism of our gifts, and the intention of our gifts that mean the most and not the monetary value that make them more precious.
It looks like their gifts were also practical in nature.
They had a practical use. Mary and Joseph had to flee very soon after. Some of the gifts would have been very useful to trade, in making their escape and long journey to safety away from King Herod. And extremely useful for a newly married couple. It would seem that the gifts the wise men gave were extremely precious, in monetary value, practical, with healing properties, and given with much thought.
We too, are given many gifts. Some of them with a sense of obligation, some symbolic, some practical and useful, some very precious, both in monetary value and some that are even more precious because of sentimental value. The latter are usually the type that are priceless and can’t be replaced. The gifts I value the most are firstly, those given in love. Also, those given in gratitude, and especially where there is no expectation to receive anything.
What connection has all of this with my business, you may ask?
Well, a lot of the story has been about my belief and my view of life, I suppose, and not specifically my business. My thoughts initially were more about gifts given to Jesus but the connection has been the reverse – what are our gifts from Him to us? We all have been given very special gifts and talents; some of a practical nature, in creativity, in manufacturing or making something with our hands, some are artistic, others are of encouragement, kindness or hospitality, some have the gift of teaching or sharing knowledge by research and writing, others have the gift in business and in making money. Sometimes our gift is our time, sometimes it’s listening and/or talking to others, or in counselling. And yet others help people to find their path and purpose. It’s important to identify that gift or talent and use it to the best of our ability.
The business connection is that I help others identify those gifts and help them to put them into practice.
The source of our gifts is not ourselves, but that just makes it more important that we use our gifts and talents wisely and to our full potential. My challenge is to use that gift to best effect, but not only that.
Gifts are not always obvious to us but they can be to others. As I said there is no record of the shepherds having brought gifts. The shepherds may have had nothing to give other than part of their livelihood, perhaps a lamb, which would have been a big sacrifice, and they may have done that – we don’t know, but we do know that they did what they were able to do, and that was to tell others. So their worship and gift was in service, rather than the material goods brought by the wise men. Our gift is not any less if it isn’t recognised in monetary value. God valued the shepherds enough to send a whole host of angels. He came to them, when they didn’t know to come to Him.
In reading and writing about this, I think it is most important to recognise that the most precious gift is not the talent that we have been given, but the most precious gift that God has given us, is Himself. And the greatest gift we can give to Him is ourselves, not out of obligation, not as a work of penance, but out of love for what He has done for us.
I wish all my readers a very happy and peaceful Christmas!