Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh: Reflections on Matthew 2:1-12
All three of these gifts lie embedded in this brief text, only twelve verses long. It's a narrative stream in which we can pan for gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The metaphor falls a little short because, technically one can't pan for frankincense and myrrh—the product of resins from plants—but no metaphor is perfect!
There is a wealth of insight in this passage, several themes that could enrich our preaching, teaching, and living during the days ahead.
"We observed his star at its rising and we have come to pay him homage" (Mt. 2:2).
This verse might lead us to ask one another: What signs have pointed you toward faith in Christ? Are you prepared to pay him homage? To kneel at his feet as a classic, time honored posture of reverence to a king?
"When Herod heard this, he was frightened and all Jerusalem with him" (Mt. 2:3).
Why was Herod so frightened? Of a baby? What did he have to lose and how did he see this baby as a threat? Let's ask ourselves the same questions.
"Go and search diligently for the child, and, when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage" (Mt. 2:8).
Are our motives ever mixed with less savory ingredients like self-interest, fear, and hypocrisy?
"When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy" (Mt. 2:10).
They knelt and paid him homage" (Mt. 2:11).
Does our acknowledgement of Jesus' Lordship over our lives and our world bring us joy? Do we really believe it is a reality, or deep down do we think it is wishful thinking?
"Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh" (Mt. 2:11).
How do we honor Christ as our ruler, revere him as the Son of God, and lament his identity as the crucified Messiah?
"Having been warned in a dream, they left for their own country by another road" (2:12).
Whose guidance do you trust? How have you discovered whom to trust?
This epiphany season, may we be as determined as the wise men in following all signs that lead to Christ. May we be as savvy as they became to the threats to his life in this world. May we be as willing to pay him homage in our lives. The church supply website may be out of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, but we can continue to give them as gifts to Christ this year, and through him, as gifts to all those we encounter as we travel to our own country by another road.
Alyce M. McKenzie is the George W. and Nell Ayers Le Van Professor of Preaching and Worship at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University.