We Three Kings
By John McNeal
Have you ever had a Christmas song really get stuck in your brain? I’m not talking about one of those songs that runs through your mind and you just can’t get it out to save your life. I’m talking about songs that make you scratch your head and say “Huh?”
Here is one of those songs: “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer.” Besides the fictional imagery that is throughout the song, how could something like that happen on Christmas Eve? What about the song “We Wish You a Merry Christmas?” Who in the world eats figgy pudding anyway? I can remember watching an old cowboy movie long ago, when I was around eight or nine years old. At that age I loved to watch the old black and white movies. I can remember one cowboy movie that ended with the song “Silent Night.” The show had nothing to do with Christmas.
I guess the biggest enigma of all Christmas songs is “We Three Kings.” The Bible doesn’t really state that there were three kings, just three different types of gifts. Mathew 2:11 reads, “And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” (NKJV) The Bible really doesn’t state how many Magi or Kings there were. They were not the focus of the passage; they were the deliverers of the gifts.
With the emphasis off the gift givers, we turn and look at the gifts themselves. Gold is one of the most sought after metals in the world. This metal can still be exchanged into any currency known to man, just as it could two thousand year ago. Nowhere in the Bible is it told what was done with this gift. More than likely it was used to help Mary, Joseph, and Jesus flee to Egypt. It could have helped sustain them during their time in Egypt and the return trip to Israel. It might even have been enough to purchase a house and land in Nazareth where this young family started their new life.
The next gift that was brought was myrrh. This is found around the base of a Commiphora myrrha tree. The dried sap is brownish in color and gives off a sweet smell when burned; it is bitter to the taste when added to liquids. It is known to help ease pain and give a numbing sensation to cuts and wounds. Mary could have used this gift to put on wounds Jesus could have gotten as a child, or possibly it was used during his burial ceremony.
The last gift was frankincense. Dried resin from a Boswellia tree produces a vanilla-like fragrance that is used in perfumes and incense. During the time of Christ, aromatic oils were used by the wealthy as perfumes. They were also used to cover the smell of a decaying body.
It is not really known what happened to any of the gifts once they were received. We can only speculate that the gold was used to supplement the family’s income during their travels between Israel and Egypt. The myrrh and frankincense may have been sold, but I would think that they were saved until the burial of Jesus. This could be the spices and incense that Mary Magdalene brought to the tomb in Mark 16. I believe that it doesn’t matter very much how many people brought the gifts; rather, the important thing is what the gifts represented to the people who brought them.