Last week Jay Leno joked that two of the three wise men must not have gotten the memo about the appropriate gift to bring Jesus. They brought only frankincense and myrrh while the third one brought gold.
James Montgomery Boyce gave further insight to these “gifts of faith” in Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus:
Gold: It is easy to see why gold is an appropriate gift for Jesus Christ. Gold is the metal of kings. When gold was presented to Jesus, it acknowledged his right to rule. The wise men knew Jesus was the King of kings.
Incense: Incense was also a significant gift. It was used in the temple worship. It was mixed with the oil that was used to anoint the priests of Israel. It was part of the meal offerings that were offerings of thanksgiving and praise to God. In presenting this gift the wise men pointed to Christ as our great High Priest, the one whose whole life was acceptable and well pleasing to his Father.
Myrrh: Myrrh was used for embalming. By any human measure it would be odd, if not offensive, to present to the infant Christ a spice used for embalming. But it was not offensive in this case, nor was it odd. It was a gift of faith. We do not know precisely what the wise men may have known or guessed about Christ’s ministry, but we do know that the Old Testament again and again foretold his suffering.