Today is Epiphany, the day in the church calendar when we celebrate the arrival of the Magi from the east. This is a rather significant event in the life of the church. The arrival of these Gentile magician-astronomers is good news to us Gentiles who have been grafted in, adopted by God. The gifts they bring have significance as well. Although scripture doesn’t explain the gifts I believe there is room for faithful, creative interpretation.
The first gift is gold, a gift fit for a king. I acknowledge my dependence upon gold … well actually it’s upon the American dollar, which is no longer backed by gold, but “same difference” as my mom always says. In order to buy and acquire the necessities of life I need gold. When I give gold away I am in some sense relinquishing my dependence upon the gold and the system it represents. As I give my gold to Christ and I am acknowledging my dependence upon him. The question I wrestle with is whether or not my money is the only “gold” I am dependent upon.
The second gift is frankincense, a gift fit for a God. Frankincense, I was told by my college Greek teacher, was an important ingredient in almost every ancient medicine of the Mediterranean. God is indeed a healer. I have also learned that frankincense plays an important role in the worship life of Israel as they burn incense unto the Lord. I surely do not carry an frankincense around with me these days, unless it’s in my cologne. I do however, have the incense of worship to offer to the Christ. The only question is whether or not I will give it.
The third gift is myrrh, a gift fit for a sacrifice. Myrrh was used to hide the odor of a decaying body. This is a strange gift for a child, unless that child is destined to die. Again, I have no myrrh and what could I possibly give to one who has died for me. Perhaps all I can give is my life. Christ came to do for me what I could not do for myself. Perhaps, being found in Christ, I can be life for those who seem to have no life; I can be a voice for those who have no voice – the poor, the unborn, the stranger in the land.
While I have no gold, frankincense or myrrh I do have dependence, worship, and life to offer the Christ child. Will I give it? Will you?