The wisemen's gifts chosen with purpose

Sunday, December 16, 2012

When I was 5 or 6, I think I received the best Christmas gift.

I've both given and received lots of great gifts. None of them can top the HotWheels race track I received back in the Christmas of 1970-something.

The track was amazing. It came with a bright yellow 1957 Chevy hot rod with flames painted along the sides. You pulled the car back locking it into the rubber band powered launcher and at the count of 10 hurled the car down the track, through the loop jumping the river of Piranhas. The best gift.

In Matthew we read about the three strange gifts of the wiseman: gold, frankincense and myrrh. They selected these gifts by going through the same process you and I do. Before giving these gifts they asked who is this child, what do they need today and what will they need tomorrow.

Gold was the gift of a king. These men from the Far East saw a star and based on their observation understood that the heavenly star was not directing, but reflecting a earthly event. A king had been born. What do you bring to royalty? Gold.

Frankincense was commonly used in worship to offer a praise of thanksgiving. This was, after all, their purpose. They had come to worship him. They left their homes, their wives and children and traveled 700 miles to worship to offer a praise of thankfulness. Their observation prompted thankfulness.

Their last gift was the most controversial. Myrrh was used not only as an numbing agent but most often as a tool for embalming. Could you imagine giving something that celebrated death to a toddler? That's exactly what these wiseman did.

These gifts were chosen not at random, but with clarity of purpose. They had come to worship he who was king, in whom full thanks is given to the one whose death will redeem the world. Gold for a king, frankinsense for praise and myrrh for death.

The HotWheel track is long gone.

This year I will buy and receive gifts that by Christmas 2013 I will have long forgotten about. Yet the gifts given to the Christ child marked who he was and what he would do. Those gifts are pre-runner to the ultimate gift give by God himself: His son, so that whoever believes in him will not perish, but have everlasting life.

Rob Hurtgen is a husband, father, minister and writer. Read more from him at

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