They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
(Matthew 2:11, New Living Translation)
…Freely you have received, freely give.
(Matthew 10:8, New International Version)
The other day I was talking with some parents from school, after the Christmas Concert. The subject of Christmas presents came up; and the group agreed that it was hard to know what to get, given that none of us actually need anything, and those things we want we just buy for ourselves. And yet there was a feeling that Christmas ought to be marked by the giving of gifts, because giving, and receiving something that we have not chosen – and might not choose! – ourselves was somehow important.
I think it is important because it debunks the myth of self-sufficiency.
The three gifts of the Magi – gold; frankincense; myrrh – have long been considered to speak with prophetic symbolism to the unique personhood of the Christ: as king; and priest; and sacrifice. But what do these gifts reveal of the giver, and are they somehow archetypal as the kind of gifts all Christ-seekers should give?
The gift of ‘gold’ says, “I will share my wealth” – my material resources – “with you.” Not just at Christmastime, but throughout the year to come.
The gift of ‘frankincense’ says, “I will pray for you” – and, if appropriate, with you. Not just at Christmastime, but throughout the year to come.
The gift of ‘myrrh’ says, “I will lay down my life for you” – will put you before me, though it costs me what I would otherwise do with my time, my aspirations, my ambitions. Not just at Christmastime, but throughout the year to come.
Might we give such gifts?
What might such gifts be?
Whom might we give such gifts to?