The First Gifts of Christmas
“Behold there came, Wisemen from the East…saying where is he that is born? For we have seen his star in the East and have come to worship him…..And when they saw the young child with Mary, his mother, they fell down and worshipped him; and when they opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”
Have you ever wondered why the first gifts of Christmas included not one, but two, perfumes? Gold, frankincense and myrhh…..the gifts were the most valuable commodities of the ancient world. Gold, used then and now as money and adornment; and frankincense and myrhh, used as perfume, for religious ritual and for embalming. If seen only literally, these gifts make little sense. What would a baby do with a bit of gold and some pieces of resin?
Frankincense and myrrh are both resins hardened from the sap of trees. They are the living essence, the life force, of the tree distilled into a fragrant bit of material. Since ancient times, this life force has been used as the basis of perfumes and in religious ceremonies because the living vibration assists in opening the mind and heart. The Wise Men were giving the Christ Child the gift of a substance that would assist him in becoming what he was born to be: a living god. In the ancient world there was an understanding that these substances were not primarily about ‘smelling good’; they were a tool to raise consciousness.
Frankincense and myrrh are still used today in perfumes and incense and it is still a tradition to give wonderful perfumes to loved ones during the Christmas season. When chosen wisely, these gifts of perfume can be a source of joy and provide comfort and protection each day of the year. And it is not too much to hope that they can also help us become what we were meant to be.