The Wise Men’s Gifts

Peninsula Community Church

What is the Meaning of Christmas? Lessons from the Magi!

December 9, 2018

Matthew 2:11 And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.

It is hard to believe that a year has passed and that we are celebrating Christmas and are looking at the gifts we will give and what gifts we will receive. For me personally, I love the Christmas season. In particular, I love the wide eyed giddy response of our grandchildren as they open their gifts on Christmas morning. I am also amazed at which gifts become their favorites so quickly. Sometimes the one we think will be their favorite is often discarded for the more simple ones. At times, I have even witnessed our kids and grandkids playing with the boxes more than the gifts purchased. 

As you consider the gift giving process, how many have ever received that gift that you have to stare at it in order to understand its value or even what it is. At one of our churches, we would have a Christmas party for our adults and one of the gifts that was sure to show up was a silver pine cone. You see, one of the families in the church during their family gift exchange had receive this as a gift. When they opened it they could not understand the gift and always joked about it as it was so cheap and looked like something bought in a dollar store. They gave the pine cone to the white elephant exchange and it soon became a cornerstone of the Christmas celebration each year. The question each year would be who would get the silver pine cone? It was the responsibility of the one receiving the pine cone to to keep for a year, and they had to regift it the following year.

In the passage before us, we find the wise men opened their treasures and offered gifts to the Christ child. These gifts were not just random gestures but were specific in nature and carefully selected to honor Jesus. They presented Him with gold, frankincense, and myrrh. At first glance these gifts seem interesting for a child. In addition to the honor and status implied by the value of the gifts, scholars believe that these three gifts were chosen for their special spiritual symbolism about Jesus Himself. With that in mind let us consider the meaning of these gifts. Adrian Rogers gives us three ideas about the gifts that are worthy of our attention today. 

First, the gift of gold represents His sovereign dominion. Gold was a present for a king, the most precious metal of that day. Gold was a symbol of royalty. To honor royalty you would present them with gifts of gold. Therefore the gift of gold by the wise men recognized this was no ordinary child. This child was a King. He was King Jesus. He was King of kings and Lord of lords! They didn’t cuddle this child, but they bowed their knee in reverence and in worship.  

Adrian Rogers on a memorable trip to Washington DC, stated that he had an opportunity to speak with the President of the United States. In conversation with the President, Adrian stated that He heard the president was visiting his city the next day. The president offered for Adrian the opportunity to ride back to Memphis with him on Air Force One. Adrian responded, “Why, Mr. President, that would be an honor, but I have a plane going back today.” The President replied, “Well, if you can arrange it, I’d love to have you.”  Adrain did not hesitate but he quickly made a hotel reservation, bought a toothbrush, and cancelled his flight. Why did he do that? It was because you do not get those invitations every day! 

Later Adrian had this thought, “You rearranged your schedule, made a reservation, and spent another night just so you could spend a few moments with that man.” Although he would do it again, he thought, “How much difficulty did you go through? And how would you compare that to what you do for the King of kings?” Adrian stated that his heart had convicted him that sometimes he was more impressed with men than with Heaven’s King. How about you?

Secondly, the gift of frankincense represents His sinless deity. If gold was a gift of wealth for a king, then frankincense was used to worship the King. Frankincense was a form of incense that was burned in worship. It is a reminder of the incense of worship found in the Old Testament structure of worship established in Exodus by God for the Children of Israel. Frankincense had a woodsy and fruity smell to it. It was a beautiful fragrance that ushered in the praise of God. These wise men recognized the sinless deity of Jesus, who was deserving of their worship. Remember Matthew’s words. “And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary His mother, and fell down, and worshipped Him… (Matthew 2:11). These pagan astrologers were overcome with the power of this tiny child and they worshipped Him.

In Isaiah 9:6 verifies this. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Jesus was not only born a king, He was God in human flesh. He came to live a sinless life so that He could take on all of our sin. The three wise men recognized this gift to human kind by offering Him the gift of frankincense as worship. 

Third, the gift of myrrh represents His sacrificial death. Myrrh was a valuable substance used to embalm the dead. Stop and think of the significance of this. They were bringing a child something used to embalm the dead? They recognized that this little one was born to die. Myrrh was also used as a narcotic to dull pain. Upon the cross, they gave Him wine mingled with myrrh, but instead of taking myrrh to numb His pain, Jesus tasted death for every man. Whether or not the wise men fully understood all this, the Holy Spirit impelled them to make these gifts and the Holy Spirit recorded them for our benefit. 

Of all the gifts they might have chosen, they brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh, recognizing His sovereign dominion, His sacred deity, and His sacrificial death. So as believers living in this generation, at this time, what is our take away? What do we learn from this story recorded by Matthew more than 2000 years ago. Well! It teaches us so much about how we approach God and what we give to Jesus on a regular basis. 

One of the first lessons we learn is that it is more blessed to give than to receive. There is inherit value in giving to others. And, it is even more of a blessing to give without strings attached or to gain something in return. In Acts 20:35 Paul gives us great insight into the power of giving freely.  In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” Notice the Wise men did not come to receive as much as they came to give. And, they gave well, but in the giving they received a greater understanding of the one they worshipped. Too often we are a spoiled people who want to get rather than give. 

We should give our best. The story of Cain and Abel remind us of the need to give that which comes from our best and not just from some of our fruit. We find that Cain gave some and Abel gave his best. Genesis 4:3-5 In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. 

Notice the comparison here. Cain gave “an” offering. Abel gave the firstborn and the fattest of his flock. Abel was not haphazard in choosing the gift but he made a specific choice. Cain’s gift was random while Abel chose and gave his best. Cain’s gift of “some” spoke to a deeper issue of the heart that was revealed when God honored Abel’s gift over Cain’s. And we know the rest of the story. Cain killed Abel out of jealousy and rage. 

To give our best we may need a heart adjustment. We give our best to the best. Sometimes we do not give as we should because we are hardened or we want to just get by. This happens often when our giving is just a matter of getting it off of our check list, or to get praise for our gift. 

Sometimes we want others to give what we ourselves are not willing to give. We want forgiveness but we fail to give forgiveness. We want grace but we ourselves fail to give grace. We want people to give us some slack but we do not give others room to fail or mess up. We want others to accept us as we are, but do little to accept others as they are. We want love but do not extend love. We want respect, but fail to respect those around us. We must be willing to go above and beyond in giving gifts not because of what we receive but for the joy of giving. 

Luke knew this and that is why he wrote the following in Luke 6:37-38. “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

What will you give Jesus this Christmas? That is the question for us to consider. For His sovereign dominion, will you give Him your wealth? For His sinless deity, will you give Him your worship? For His sacrificial death, will you give Him your life and your witness? My wealth, my worship, my life, and my witness belong to my Lord. And according to His Word, so does yours. What will you do? What will you give?

For an audio of this message go to

Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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