The Three Gifts… As the Christmas season approaches my thoughts always turn to the nativity scene I volunteered to help put up in the early 1960’s. I was a naval weather observer stationed at Naval Air Sation Glynco, Georgia. One day in late November, I found that my commanding officer had been placed in charge of putting up the Christmas decorations on the base, I also found out that, in the traditional Navy way, myself and another Areographer’s mate had been volunteered to do the work. It was a week and a half of working high above the ground, in a cherry picker basket, in bitter cold thirty degree weather, putting eight foot high plywood candy canes on top of light poles. The last day was the best , because it was at ground level where it was warmer, and assembling the nativity scene was relatively easy and only took half the day.
I have always wondered about the three gifts presented to the child Jesus by the three Magi, and decided to do a little research into the three gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. I started my research with the bible, Matthew chapter 2, where this story unfolds. I have researched some bible stories in the past and it is not always an easy job because words and their meanings have changed through several translations down through the centuries. Also starting back when these events happened, they most likely were passed along as verbal stories, and only a small select elite group had the ability to commit words to paper. Following I will present some of the things I have found.
The designation “Magi” refers to a Persian religious caste, but when this gospel was written, the term was loosely used for astrologers, seers, and fortunetellers. Matthew does not call them kings; that title was used later, in legends. They may have been royal astronomers, advisers to kings. Read more about the three Magi on the Net at: http://christianity.about.com/od/newtestamentpeople/a/Three-Kings.htm
Gold was the easiest gift to research, we all know what gold is, the only thing I could not find out was the form the gold took, my guess would be either coin or an object.
The second gift, Frankincense is defined as the gum or resin of the Boswellia tree, used for making perfume and incense. It was an expensive item, that was collected in remote areas of North Africa, India, and Arabia, and it took a long time to harvest and process the resin. Read more on the Net at: http://www.livescience.com/25670-what-is-frankincense.html
The third gift, Myrrh is defined as an expensive spice, used for making perfume, incense, medicine, and for anointing the dead. Myrrh comes from a small bushy tree, cultivated in ancient times in the Arabian peninsula. Myrrh was used raw or crushed and mixed with oil to make a perfume. It was also used medicinally to reduce swelling and stop pain. Read more on the Net at : http://christianity.about.com/od/glossary/a/Myrrh.htm
One of the other things I learned was that when the three Magi learned of the Christ child’s birth, it probably took them a very long time following the star to cover the couple of thousand miles to see him and when they arrived, Jesus was most likely one or two years old. This was the reason why Herod had every child up to two years old put to death.
The Bible story of Christ’s birth is a very interesting one to read, especially if you take the time to read different researchers history and theories of what was happening at the time.
Incidentally, the word Christmas is derived from the Old English expression Cristes Maesse, meaning “Christ’s mass” or “Mass of Christ.”
Finally as the immortal Tiny Tim would say, “God Bless Us Everyone”