Myrrh, White Elephant it is Not

Christmas, a time of sharing, loving and gift giving.  We are in the season of hunting for those perfect gifts. Regardless of what makes it home with us from the mall, masked and ready to buy or what arrives from Amazon. All of us have gifts to offer. God-given gifts that He asks that we share with one another. Whether it is the gift of serving or the gift of encouragement, or the gift of a listening ear.  Or perhaps hospitality, providing an extra place at the dinner table. No gift is too small, or seemingly insignificant.

Gifts.

We often read the Christmas story and highlight the most spectacular parts: Singing angels. “Fear Not” statements. The Star of Bethlehem, and yes, the dingy manger. YET, there are some quiet and less compelling items to be had in the excitement.  Gifts.  Consider if you will, (imagine with me) the Magi (Matt 2) as they prepare for their trek out to find the child to whom the shiny Star belongs. (Tradition, not scripture, says there were three wise men, only because the three gifts that were given). They are packing, dividing the supplies list. Then they come to the gift inventory; gold is given to the first, then frankincense handed to another. “Oh yeah” the myrrh is last. How would you like to be handed the myrrh and picture yourself bowing low, head to the floor while you offer to the King of Kings, M-Y-R-R-H (said with an Eeyore deep tone). You may think “Why do I have to carry the white elephant gift?”   White elephant it is not. It is one among the triune gifts that are of great value. 

Have we thought about these gifts? Gold, we have that one down. Frankincense is ground dried up tree sap used as incense, highly fragrant when burned.  And myrrh, what is THAT?

The divine significance of myrrh: It also comes from the sap of a tree, yet it is not just some sticky goo creatively used.  It was:

  1. In the divinely prescribed anointing oil of the Tabernacle and the priests (Exodus 30:22-23). 
  2. In the perfumed oil poured over Jesus’ feet (John 12:3, Matthew 26:12: The ointment is “Myron” which is myrrh-oil). 
  3. Also, as one of the spices to prepare Jesus’ body for burial (John 19:39-40).

Picture now, the Christ child, perhaps two in age or younger. Jesus with curly dark hair, possibly pudgy cheeks. At His feet, the Magi place gold, frankincense, and MYRRH. The same anointing oil used to anoint temple priests, now set before Jesus – our High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-16).  The same perfumed myrrh now before small feet – would one day be oil poured over a grown mans feet, those feet that would one day hang on a cross and be pierced. Jesus was also offered wine mixed with myrrh, but He didn’t take it. (Mk 15:23; Matt 27:34) Scholars believe Jesus refused to drink the mixture, due to its numbing effect.  He wanted to be fully aware, fully present in the suffering for mankind. Myrrh was the oil added to the spices wrapped around His body following His death. 

Jesus, now a child, will one day, be the man fulfilling this gift. Myrrh, HOW PROPHETIC.

Christmas gift-giving, following the Magi’s example: Regardless of how insignificant it may seem at a quick glance among the noisier aspect of things – we never know the impact and how far-reaching our giving may be. Today it’s not so much the item, but the heart of giving. The giving of self is a gift. An encouraged heart, a feed soul, a person no longer lonely. Gifts given in Jesus’ name – the gift that keeps on giving.   

Note: For those of you who work Crossword Puzzles: 5 letters down: “Anointing oil of the Tabernacle, the priests and Jesus?”  The answer: “Myrrh” (YAY! You’re welcome).

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)

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