The Hebrew word, mara (myrrh has its root in this word), means bitter. The Israelites knew bitterness in the wilderness. They ate bitter herbs at the Passover meal. They were familiar with the pungent aroma the bitter spice delivered when it was poured over a body or burnt in a fire.
Bitterness seems an appropriate gift for a child who would have to suffer much before he was freed from this world. Bitter disappoinntment. Bitter sorrow. Bitter pain. Bitter treatment from the Romans and the from his own people.
Myrrh? Why would anyone give a burial spice to a child? Seems an odd gift.
While myrrh was not as expensive as gold and frankincense, it was quite valuable. Worshiping the new king would be costly for the magi. They needed to give appropriate (valuable) gifts to the new heir to the throne. Myrrh was expensive so it fit.
I wonder if anyone put the burial spice together with the eventual death of this baby king? It could certainly be kept for decades until it was needed. It had value even if wasn't used now. It was an extravagant gift for the child but a reasonable gift at that.
I just wonder when the first time anyone put these gifts together with his mission to find the irony. I just wonder.
Before you say anything about my Christmas sermon series . . . Yes, I know the Wisemen probably came to see the new born king quite awhile after he was born. Yes, I know that even though Fontanini would like us to believe that they were at the creche with the shepherds that they don't belong. I also know that there were probably more than 3. They were probably not kings (although a good bit of history over the last 2000 years would say that they were). Their names were probably not Caspar, Balthasar, and Melchior. They probably did not come from 3 different continents. OK. I got it. Do we understand each other?
The composition of the gifts is interesting to me. The gold is fit for a king. Can you imagine traveling along a route that was known for bandits with a gift of gold? I can imagine that the entourage would have been quite large and well armed. Can you imagine the confusion when the circus pulled up to a meager carpenter's home? Can you imagine what the residents of the little hamlet of Nazareth were thinking as these royal ambassadors came to visit lowly Mary and Joseph? Can you imagine?
While gold is certainly fitting for a baby king, the frankincense is of greater interest to me. It is a gift for a god. A gift one would bring as an act of worship. Magi worshiping the baby king.
Matthew 2:2 states, "We saw his star when it rose and have come toworshiphim.”
This was no ordinary royal birth. There was no palace. There were no royals. There were no servants. There was no altar. There was no temple. But there were magi worshiping. There was frankincense for the liturgy. There was God in the flesh.