In the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, One God Amen.
“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:14).
As we continue to rejoice with our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ on the day of His birth, we come to learn a few more things about the Nativity. The birth of Christ is the beginning of life after Adam’s fall which is why his birth is a significant moment for us Christians.
Christ was born during the time when there was a king named Herod who ruled Judea. King Herod was an evil, self-conceited king who saw himself as the greatest man from all mankind. Moreover, there were three wise men that found a star in the east and came to Jerusalem to seek for our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. They’ve approached King Herod and asked “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him” (Matthew 2:2). The star guided them to Christ because it stood right above where Christ was born. When King Herod heard this, he was upset, because he wanted to maintain his superiority not realizing that it was God himself that was born and not any other kind of King. The three wise men then departed from King Herod and went off to follow the star. Many of us probably depict the wise men visiting Christ right when he was born. However, they did not reach Christ at his exact birth, it took them two years to arrive to Him and only 40 days to go back. After two years of following the star, they have finally found Christ with great joy. They bowed down and worshipped him and presented Him with three gifts; gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These gifts are not just any ordinary gifts that you can consume or buy to please anyone. These three gifts contain great meaning and symbolize our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ with great honor and glory.
The gold symbolizes Christ’s highness as a King. Many times, gold is depicted and understood as something with very high value. It is a very costly and expensive metal that requires great labor to produce. Therefore, when the three wise men presented gold, they are representing that Christ is a king. The frankincense that the wise men brought symbolizes Christ’s priesthood. From the old testament until this very day, frankincense is mainly used by priests to offer sacrifice to God. The third gift that the three wise men presented to Christ was myrrh which symbolizes His death. The term “myrrh” comes from Hebrew, which means “bitter” and was used to cover a dead body. Even later after Christ’s crucifixion, Joseph and Nicodemus had come to Christ to wrap His body with myrrh before taking Him into the tomb (John 19:38-42).
When we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, we tend to picture the setting. Having our mother St. Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the three wise men, and even how the manger must’ve looked like. We picture those three gifts as well. Given that those three gifts have various meanings and great symbolism; how can we relate these gifts to the relationship we have with God ourselves? Every Christmas, we exchange gifts with our friends and family members, but what kind of gift can we give to God? Does this mean we should go to the jewelry shop and buy thousands of dollars worth of gold for Him? Or should we go out and buy myrrh at a local incense shop? We can learn a huge lesson from the gifts these three wise men presented to our Lord Christ.
The gift of gold symbolizes Christ’s highness as a king. “....I am a king. For this cause, I was born, and for this, cause I have come into the world” (John 18:37). This gift allows us to focus our views on Christ as being above all nations and being the creator of the universe. Not to say that God is worth gold because, by all means, God’s worth cannot be compared to any kind of valuable possession. However, the gold indeed symbolizes God’s superiority over every living thing on this planet. This concept allows us as individuals to constantly view God with high honor. Frankincense symbolizes Christ’s priesthood. A priest is a person who is ordained to minister the church under the holy sacraments. Priesthood itself is one of the seven sacraments that the Orthodox Tewahdo Church follows. This specific gift that the three wise men presented to Christ enables us to view God as not only a king but also as our shepherd as well (Psalms 23:1). Just like how a priest sacrifices to guide the people of the Church in the right direction of God, Christ is also our main guide to righteousness and His kingdom. He had come down to earth to be an example of how to follow the steps to eternal life. The third gift of myrrh should constantly remind us of the fact that Christ gave up His life and was crucified on the cross for the sake of our sins. Whenever we converse with God, or whenever we approach His altar at Church, this gift of myrrh is a constant reminder of the main purpose of why Christ came down to earth; to save us from our sins that have been brought down from Adam by being crucified on the Cross.
In all, whenever we come one on one with God, whether it’s when we are at home praying, or at His own house at Church, these three gifts are important to keep in mind. These gifts teach us how we should present ourselves in front of God. In Romans 12:1 St. Paul taught “I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service”. Understanding God’s priesthood, highness as a king and crucifixion all together enables us to stand in front of God with deep humbleness and present ourselves to God with true faith.
The western culture has truly caused a paradigm shift in the practice of our true faith. All the colorful decorations of Christmas trees, Christmas parties and exchanging material gifts to each other, has truly changed how we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The Nativity is a huge start to our journey with Christ because it is the time God Himself came down to earth for the sake of teaching us, most importantly for the sake of saving us from our sins. Christ did not come down to earth just to visit humans and see how we were doing. He came down to fulfill the prophecies of spreading the gospel, to be crucified on the cross and resurrect on the third day for the sake of cleansing us from our sins.
This day is one of the main feasts our Church celebrates every year with great respect and honor. The birth of Christ is truly a day to praise and worship Him with the angels for coming down to this Earth for our sakes. We are blessed every year for having the opportunity to rejoice on this delightful feast. It is important that we constantly put emphasis on the true meaning of the birth of Christ and not lose the main purpose of why we celebrate this day. By continuously remembering Christ as being the true King, His priesthood and His crucifixion, we are able to celebrate His birth in a more meaningful way. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” John 3:16. The birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is the day we build our faith with Him to receive eternal life.
Glory to God,