And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him.Matthew 2:11
Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.
The gifts given to Jesus are mentioned just that one time in the Bible. And yet an entire season of gift-giving has been the result. We rattle off “gold, frankincense, and myrrh” as if they are old friends – not odd baby gifts from three strangers who appear out of nowhere after following a star.
So much mystery surrounds the Magi, as little detail is given in Matthew 2. Who were they? Where did they come from? Were there three – or did the carol composers just take liberties? When did they really arrive to see Jesus?
But my biggest question is How did they know?
How did they know to follow the star? to look for a baby known to them as King of the Jews?
How did they know so much when all around them, the people in the towns and villages on their way, King Herrod and all of Jerusalem were completely unaware of the birth?
Speculated to be priests from the East, skilled in astronomy and astrology, these respected men brought three disparate items we still value and appreciate.
But for a baby? Who would have thought…
The first – gold. A measure of wealth recognized throughout the world since its discovery long ago. A lustrous metal, precious and beautiful, naturally resistant to decay and tarnish.
And even from the earliest of times, gold was equated with gods and rulers, adorning the wealthy, crowning the royal. Used to create gifts for God as well as idols to replace Him.
So why did the Magi bring gold to celebrate the birth of a baby to a family they did not know? When they saw the surroundings, the meager belongings of a poor carpenter and his very young wife, the lack of splendor, the abundance of very little… how could they still believe they were in the right place?
You have to admit, using the star for guidance was not at all like the GPS in my car: At the next intersection, turn right. You have arrived at your destination.
The text says simply “The star came to rest over the place where the child was.” How on earth could they pinpoint the exact location of one tiny baby based on a star in the sky? Good golly, Miss Molly!
We will never know this side of Heaven the answers to some of these mysteries. And I’m good with that. Although some of the unknowns of the Bible drive me a little crazy, I don’t believe God owes me explanations for all of my questions.
(And I’m certain that if we believe we have it all figured out, the obscure and controversial alike, we are in deep purple trouble. God without unknowns is just a smarter version of the smartest people I know.)
But the fact that we are told these respected men brought a precious metal reserved for royalty to the Baby Jesus is significant. It wasn’t random, nor did it bring particular fame to the bearers, men whose names are not mentioned in the scripture and who disappear into the unknown of history, not forgotten, but never identified.
My lovelies, on this first Monday of the season, I give you the beauty and richness of gold. Meant for a king. Given to a baby, not yet speaking… the Word of God to Man*.
And my prayer is that, during this season of Advent and waiting, we will contemplate the true Majesty of Jesus, whether as a baby or a man, whether in Heaven or here in human form on Earth. Let’s remember with awe and wonder who He is… Son of God, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
A baby worthy of the most splendid gift of gold.
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*from In the First Light by GLAD on their An Acapella Christmas album