Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas Gifts Pt 2. Frankincense

And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (Matthew 2:11)

Frankincense to offer have I; Incense owns a Deity nigh; Prayer and praising, voices raising, Worshipping God on high. (We Three Kings. Words and Music by John H. Hopkins 1857)

Twenty years ago or more, a preschool-aged member of my family was practicing for a Christmas pageant. He was not only singing with the group, but also had some lines in the play. His only line was, “The wise men brought gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.”

I was feeling pretty mischievous, so I thought I’d have some fun at the expense of a 6-year old. I told him I would rehearse with him. As he recited his lines to me I said, “No, it wasn’t frankincense, it’s ‘Frankenstein’.” I really didn’t think much more about it until I found out later that he really did go to the pageant and say that the wise men brought gifts of gold, Frankenstein and myrrh. I doubled over in laughter.

The problem was that he knew that Frankenstein was a monster with bolts coming out of his neck, but he had no idea what frankincense was. In fact, isn’t that the problem with most of us? We have heard this story many times since we were children, but most have no idea what these mysterious gifts were that the wise men brought.

Last week we discussed gold. We all know what that is. This week we will explore that second gift of Frankenstein…I mean frankincense.

Frankincense is a resin that is derived from the boswellia tree that is in the dry regions of north-east Africa and south of the Arabian Peninsula. The tree tolerates the most critical situations and is often on rocky slopes and ravines. This resin has long been used as aromatic incense, most often in worship.

The Hebrews used it in the temple and in the tabernacle before it. It was one of the ingredients in the altar incense. And the LORD said to Moses: “Take sweet spices, stacte and onycha and galbanum, and pure frankincense with these sweet spices; there shall be equal amounts of each. 35 You shall make of these an incense, a compound according to the art of the perfumer, salted, pure, and holy. 36 And you shall beat some of it very fine, and put some of it before the Testimony in the tabernacle of meeting where I will meet with you. It shall be most holy to you. (Exodus 30:34-36) It is also mentioned in the book of Leviticus, Numbers, Nehemiah, Song of Solomon, and Jeremiah in the Old Testament.

In the New Testament, it is only mentioned twice. Once, as a gift that the wise men brought, and another in Revelation as an item that merchants sell. This gift has significance just as gold did.

Since the gift of gold signified Christ’s royalty, the gift of frankincense symbolizes Christ’s priesthood. He is our King and our Priest. He rules over us, but to Him we bring all of our worship, praise, burdens, confessions, and sins. Where once the Hebrews had to go to a priest to communicate with the Father, now we have our perfect salvation in Jesus. We no longer need a priest to gain access to God. Jesus is our High Priest. We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man.(Hebrews 8:1-2)

This is all great information, but what do we do with it today? Last week, we talked about how we should give God our material things this Christmas, but what can we give to our High Priest?

To Jesus, our High Priest, we offer…

Our confession. Romans 10:9 if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved

Our sins. Romans 6:18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness

Our selves. Romans 12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship

Give these gifts to God this Christmas, and release yourself from the guilt and shame of disobedience. He came to set us free from the chains of sin. He became our High Priest so we can go directly to Him with our praises and petitions. Go to the altar of your heart today.

Praise Him! Praise Him! Jesus, our bless├Ęd Redeemer! Heav’nly portals loud with hosannas ring! Jesus, Savior, reigneth forever and ever. Crown Him! Crown Him! Prophet, and Priest, and King! (Fanny Crosby 1869)

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