The First Christmas Gifts and Some Forgotten Christmas Songs
Gold For The King
Wise men brought gifts to a young child about two thousand years ago, and Christians world-wide exchange gifts in celebration of that same child's birth these many years later. King Herod tried to eliminate the child, whom he believed was his competition, by ordering the murder of all of the young children in the area prophesied to be his place of birth. Herod was a particularly vicious ruler.
The gifts that the wise men presented to the child though unconventional, were very appropriate for the boy they believed would become a great ruler. He had the power to give life and to take away sins. They brought gold to the future king, and I'm sure it was greatly appreciated by his young parents. Though the gifts were symbolic gestures of worship, the gift of gold was also practical. The wise men, having traveled as far as they did for the very purpose of presenting these gifts, probably gave the boy a significant amount and not just a few coins. The parents may have used it to escape Herod's evil plan by traveling to Egypt, and they may have needed it to fund the trip back to Israel after Herod's death.
Frankincense For the High Priest
The gift of frankincense showed the recognition that this child was born to be a holy intercessor for mankind. This incense ingredient was burned on alters during sacrifices to God, and this child was the sacrificial offering provided by God himself to cover all of man's sin. It's also important to note that frankincense is collected from trees, and a tree would ultimately figure very prominently in the death of this child later in his adulthood. The Christmas tree is a significant symbol of the roughly-hewn cross that this Godly sacrificial offering willingly died on.
Myrrh For His Suffering and Death
Myrrh means "bitterness". It had many uses in the early days, one of which was embalming. This child was to suffer greatly, and be killed unjustly. His bitter suffering was written about long before his birth, and being both God and man, he was well aware of why he was here, and what he was facing. That knowledge was itself a burden; the same burden his followers are called to bear when he later states, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me".
The Meaning of Gifts Today
The gifts given many years ago by the wise men weren't the first Christmas gifts. The first was the gift of the child. God came willingly to Earth as a man to make the sacrifice necessary to cleanse his creation of its sinful nature. He was born to a virgin by way of a miraculous visit from the Holy Spirit of God himself and lived as men lived, only without sin. Man and God in the same person. In this gift, God had provided himself as the sacrifice for his creation, preparing to die with love in place of all who accept that gift, and believe that He rose again after that death. Those who accept the gift in faith, will live with God for all time. From early in Earth's history.
The tradition of gift giving, may have begun in the day of the early Christian church by Saint Nicholas who dedicated his life to helping the needy. Though it has become somewhat, or even overtly, commercial in modern times, the story of Christmas is still very real to faithful Christians. If children are exposed to the reality of the Christmas story early in life, the commercial side of it can be minimized, and a family can enjoy a much more fulfilling holiday season.
It is my hope that the story of Christmas is read in your home this year, and that the spirit of that first gift of Christmas is under your tree.
A Few Forgotten Christmas Songs
Christmas is a time for music to be sure. Sometimes, though it seems the music is five or six songs done by ten or fifteen different singers. These are a few you don't hear often in the malls.