Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas Gifts Pt. 3 Myrrh

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

Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume Breathes a life of gathering gloom; Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying, Sealed in the stone cold tomb. *

The last two columns I wrote, just before Christmas, dealt with the gifts the wise men brought to Jesus and what we could similarly bring to God as our Christmas gifts. I purposely covered gold and frankincense before Christmas, so that the gift of myrrh could be considered after Christmas was over.

Gold symbolized Jesus’ royalty and frankincense symbolized His priesthood. Myrrh, however, symbolized something that we don’t like to think of at Christmas. Myrrh called to mind the death of Christ for our sins. Few people ever look at a baby or young child and think about their death, but that is exactly what the myrrh represented when the magi gave it to Jesus.

Myrrh is a dried sap that is extracted from certain trees, native to the area around Israel. It was used two ways in ancient society. It could either be burned as incense, or used as an embalming ointment. As incense, it was often used in funerals to mask the inevitable smell from the dead body. It is also mentioned in the Old Testament as an ingredient in holy anointing oils and perfumes.

In addition to being one of the gifts recorded as being given by the wise men, myrrh is mentioned twice more in the New Testament. The first occurrence is in Mark 15:22-23 when Jesus was crucified. And they brought Him to the place Golgotha, which is translated, Place of a Skull. Then they gave Him wine mingled with myrrh to drink, but He did not take it. The next mention of myrrh is in John 19:39-40 when Jesus was taken down from the cross and buried. And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds. 40 Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury.

What could we possibly bring to God as a gift that would be similar to myrrh? We should give our life for Him. Yes, we need to die for Him. No, I do not mean that we should kill ourselves. I mean that we need to die to our former lives and our former sinfulness. Paul says in Romans 6:6-9, Our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. 7 For he who has died has been freed from sin. 8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him.
The thing that God most wants from us…is us! He wants all of us. He wants every part of our lives. He wants our body, our spirit, our mind, and soul. In order to give this to Him, we must put aside all of our wants and desires. We must understand and believe that they died on the cross with Christ. They were buried with Him in the tomb. However, Just as Paul says in the Romans passage above, we are raised with Him victoriously.

The paradox here is, that if we give God all of who we are and will ever be, then He will give us a new life that is far greater than we could imagine. This includes life here on earth and eternal life with Him in heaven.

We have much to celebrate! Christ is no longer a baby in a manger. He is no longer a simple man raised by a carpenter. He is no longer on the cross or in the tomb. He is risen and lives in us to bring us light in our darkness, and joy to our lives!

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined. (Isaiah 9:2)

Glorious now behold Him arise; King and God and sacrifice; Alleluia, Alleluia, sounds through the earth and skies. (*We Three Kings. Words and Music by John H. Hopkins 1857)

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