Summary: The gifts we give on Christmas are often given in gaily wrapped paper. The paper conceals what is hidden inside the present. Similarly, the gifts of the wisemen were like wrapping paper concealing special gifts of great value. Do you know what they were?
Humorist Dave Barry wrote about the gifts that were brought by the Wise Men. He suggested that if you examined that story carefully, you’d find that there is an overlooked theological fact in the story. There is no mention of wrapping paper. Why? First, these guys were wise. And second… they were men. When it comes to wrapping gifts, it seems men lack the necessary skills in this area. You can always tell which gifts under the tree were wrapped by men.
Fifty percent of all the paper consumed in the U.S is used for gift wrapping and decoration. And with regard to gift wrapping - each year people buy an estimated 8,000 tons of wrapping paper. And Christmas wrap sales exceed $2.6 billion every year. (Ken Trivette) Now that’s a lot of money to spend on wrapping paper - paper whose only purpose is to hide the gifts within.
In Matthew 2:11 we’re told “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.” There’s a strong possibility that these THREE gifts were what helped Mary and Joseph to support themselves when they fled to Egypt to escape from King Herod (PAUSE) but, while these gifts were very expensive and were very helpful, I suspect that each of those gifts was more like wrapping paper. Beautiful on the outside, but inside – there was something valuable hidden!
First – consider the GOLD. Gold has always seemed to be an expensive gift. On today’s market, the cost of gold is little over $2000 an ounce. That would add up to $32,000 per pound. That’s a lot of money. In the Middle East, gold was principally reserved for Royalty because they were pretty much only ones who could afford the stuff. The pharaohs of Egypt insisted on being buried in gold. King Tut - was enshrined in three gold coffins - the third and final coffin was made of 243 pounds of solid gold [source: Bonewitz].
In Persia there was a mausoleum built for Cyrus the Great (a King mentioned in Old Testament). And inside the tomb there was a golden couch and a golden coffin – the coffin that held the body of Cyrus.
And then there was King Nebuchadnezzar (King of the Babylonian Empire) who ordered that a huge gold-plated statue be erected to commemorate HIS personal greatness and glory. Everyone was ordered to bow down and worship his golden image… and of course, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego refused to bow down (but that’s another story).
Gold has always been very expensive - the currency of Kings! And so it was a gift fit for a king. In the Christmas song “We Three Kings Of Orient Are” … the 2nd verse says: "Born a King on Bethlehem plain. Gold I bring to crown Him again. King forever, ceasing never - over us all to reign."
So hidden within that gift of Gold, was a proclamation: Jesus is King And that’s what the prophecy in Isaiah 9 declared: “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever.” Isaiah 9:6-7
Jesus was born to be a KING!!!!
So what kind of gift could you possibly give a King? Someone has asked: “What do you give a person who has everything?” The wisemen brought gold… but I don’t have much of that. So what can you bring to Jesus that’s as valuable as Gold? Well, we’ll talk about that in a bit.
The next gift – Frankincense. Frankincense was a very rare and expensive oil. Frankincense and myrrh were both made from plants which were difficult to grow outside of their native environment; and that’s what makes the oil of these plants rare and expensive. (https://www.auracacia.com/blog/why-are-some-essential-oils-more-expensive#:~:text=Several%20plants%2C%20such%20as%20frankincense,more%20rare%20and%20therefore%20intensive.) Frankincense is a gum-like material (resin) that comes from the trunk of the Boswellia tree. Even today, people use its oil. They use it on their skin and in aromatherapy. It is commonly used as a fragrance in soaps, lotions, and perfumes.
But, back in the Old Testament, frankincense was a GIFT offered to God. It was burned in the temple as an offering to God (Leviticus 2:2). And (when mixed with other items) it became a special perfume for God.
In the book of Exodus… God told Moses, "Take fragrant spices—gum resin, onycha and galbanum—and pure frankincense, all in equal amounts, and make a fragrant blend of incense, the work of a perfumer. It is to be salted and pure and sacred. Grind some of it to powder and place it in front of the Testimony in the Tent of Meeting, where I will meet with you. It shall be most holy to you. Do not make any incense with this formula for yourselves; consider it holy to the LORD. Whoever makes any like it to enjoy its fragrance must be cut off from his people." Exodus 30:34-38