On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. –Mathew 2:11
Dear members and friends,
I have heard a number of enriched version of the story of the wise men who came from the East and presented gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to baby Jesus. However, in the Gospel of Matthew what we find is only that “In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem (Matthew 2:1).” In fact, we do not even know how many there were. We assume that there were three wise men because they brought three gifts. In one reference, I found that the gifts had a spiritual meaning: “gold as a symbol of kingship on earth, frankincense (an incense) as a symbol of deity, and myrrh (an embalming oil) as a symbol of death.”
In my brief research on the use of myrrh and frankincense, I found that myrrh is applied directly to the mouth for soreness and swelling, inflamed gums (gingivitis), loose teeth, canker sores, bad breath, and chapped lips. Frankincense works as an expectorant to clear the nasal passageway, promote the relief of congestion, and encourage easy breathing. In a simple summary, myrrh is used as a balm to external troubles of the body, while frankincense is used more as soothing scent inside the body. With gold, you could acquire both and more. This is perhaps why Swedenborg explains, “Gold, frankincense, and myrrh signify all things of the good of love and of faith in the Lord.” Gold signifies the goodness of love, frankincense the goodness of faith, and myrrh both things as expressed externally. In a similar way, Swedenborg also explains that the heart symbolizes love, while lungs symbolize wisdom. Therefore, the three gifts of the wise men symbolize the three gifts that we can bring to the Lord: the goodness of the heart, kind and gentle thoughts about humans (including oneself), and loving and encouraging words and actions towards humans (including oneself). Among all these, the goodness in heart (gold) is most essential because if there is goodness in one’s heart, most likely kind thoughts and loving actions will follow.
My dear friends and church family, I hope that you are working on preparing those gifts for baby Jesus who is going to be born anew in our hearts.
Blessings, Rev. Junchol Lee