Gifts of the Magi
At the time of Jesus’ birth, frankincense and myrrh were as familiar as gold and just as rare and precious. In Jesus’ time, one pound of gold was worth $600 and frankincense slightly less. However, Myrrh was worth $4,000. Why did the magi choose gold, frankincense and myrrh? Gold was given to the Virgin to relieve her poverty; frankincense to dispel the bad odor of the stable and myrrh to drive away vermin, such as worms. They also signified more. Gold, as a form of tribute and the property of royalty, indicated that Jesus was a king. Frankincense, which played such an important role in religious rituals and offerings to deities, showed that Jesus was God. And, myrrh, which was used in burials, prefigured Jesus’s death and indicated his humanity. It is evident that all three gifts were representative of Jesus’ birth, life and death. Gold was a traditional gift for kings, yet frankincense was associated with emperors and pharaohs, and myrrh was a luxury item treasured by royalty. All three gifts also indicated divinity since gold symbolized sacredness, frankincense connected humans with god, and myrrh was an anointing oil. All three represented Jesus’ sacrifice. Gold traditionally accompanied kings to burial, the fragrant smoke of frankincense carried the soul to heaven and bitter tears of myrrh were used in burials. Gold, frankincense and myrrh were gifts for a king, god, and a man.
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