Thursday, December 23, 2010

Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh

Every year, we gather little ones around the tree and tell the amazing story of the Incarnation. And like I noted in an earlier post, we should be talking about this all year round and not hording this wonderful news for just 25 days each December, but it's healthy to give it special focus once in a while. I try to boil things down so the kids can keep a specific focus every year. This year, I've been telling them, "Christmas is the beginning of God keeping His promise to fix the problem."

I like to tell the story in parts, usually ending on a cliffhanger note. It drives the kids crazy, but they love it. Last night, we picked up around Jesus' second birthday, when the Magi show up at the door with their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. As we walked through the story, I was struck by the fate of those gifts. The gold I can figure out. Joseph, a carpenter and likely a part of the artisan middle class, a business owner, might have invested it or put it away for a rainy day.

But what about the frankincense and myrrh? Frankincense was used as incense in worship. Myrrh was used in burial. What went through Mary's mind as she saw those gifts? Surely, she knew their significance. Did the sword already begin to pierce her heart as she looked at them?
"Frankincense--because my son is God.
Myrrh--because my son will die for us all."
As a mother, I can tell you that it would have been a tortuous reminder of what was to come for my precious little boy.

What did Jesus think as He saw them? Did those bottles in His house serve to remind Him of who He was? Did the frankincense remind Him that He was a holy God separated from a people He loved? Did the myrrh remind Him that only He could bridge that separation? Did He, even then, begin to set His face like flint for the Cross?

Gold, frankincense, and myrrh--gifts for a toddler. I can't help but wonder why.

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