“Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.”

Matthew 2: 11

Extra readings: Matthew 2: 1-12 

If we’re to believe everything we see on Christmas cards, then the Wise Men arrived on the night of Jesus’ birth and were there with the other visitors to the Holy Child, such as the shepherds. But a careful reading of Matthew 2: 1-12 shows that by now, Jesus and his parents were living in a house. Their visit probably only happened after Jesus had been presented at the Temple so he would have been at least 6 weeks old, but most probably between 1 and 2 years old.  

Interestingly, the Wise Men, probably astrologers, were not Jewish but came from a Gentile nation. They were so convinced that they were seeing a message from the Divine that they followed that star for two years. Unfortunately, when they reached Jerusalem they confided in the father of the Herod Jesus called ‘that fox’ (Luke 13: 32). He proved to be the worst possible confidante as we’ll see in tomorrow’s devotion. For now, let’s focus on the significance of the gifts the Magi brought.

They are odd gifts for a child. A pull toy or a ball would perhaps have been more appropriate. But they  brought chrysós (χρυσός), líbanos (λίβανος) and smýrna (σμύρνα) - gold, frankincense and myrhh. Strange gifts indeed for a young boy, yet it is these very gifts that foretell the whole of the gospel. These items have strong spiritual significance. The Syrian king, Seleucus, is recorded to have offered gold, frankincense and myrrh to Apollo. And Origen, an early church father, saw them as "gold, as to a king; myrrh, as to one who was mortal; and incense, as to a God." These gifts tell that Jesus is a king, He is God, he will die. From the cradle, the cross was a shadow in the background. Christmas foreshadows the crucifixion. What happened to those gifts? No-one knows for sure but church tradition has it that these gifts funded the family’s flight to Egypt, that we’ll look at in more detail tomorrow. In Jesus’ time, myrrh and frankincense were worth as much as gold. 

When we trust God for provision, we tend to think of the two or three channels that you can imagine He could possibly use. Have you ever imagined that there would be a knock on your door and when you opened it there would be a bunch of Iranian astrologers outside with costly medicines, perfumes and Kruger Rands for you? When you’re on God’s mission, you’re in for a big adventure.


Father, I see that I can rely on You in every situation. Thank You for taking the constraints off my thinking.  

Want to do this devotional as a family?

1. Prepare by wrapping a gift for each child that symbolically speaks of something about their identity or destiny.        
2. Begin by allowing each person to unwrap their gift and then explain why you gave them that.
3. Ask each person whether they know what the gifts were that were given to the child Jesus and who brought them.
4. Explain that Jesus was already a toddler by the time the Magi found the family. Explain the significance of each of the gifts they brought.
5. Finish by praying and blessing each child, then allow them to open their Day 7 Advent Calendar.

If you’ve been organised enough to already have Christmas presents to wrap, this would be a good time to do so.