The Meaning of the Gifts

Jayne Konynenbelt


An activity for children's worship or for the home - adapted from "Eyes to See" cirriculum by Collette De Nooyer

Materials
large wooden box to hold all the gifts
three smaller boxes – one for each of the gifts
gold (spray paint small stones)
Frankincense and myrrh (purchased – tree sap form) available in Signals catalog, or www.giftcatalog.com.
gold cloth to line the large box
deep purple, burgundy and navy cloth napkins to wrap each individual gift


Today we celebrate Epiphany. Epiphany means that something is revealed or made clear in a way we had not seen before. On Epiphany we usually tell the story of the Magi, or Wisemen. The Magi were quite possibly a tribe of priests. The new star they saw was created for them to see and led them to recognize God’s son – their Savior and Lord. As priests, the Magi were most likely knowledgeable about subjects such as philosophy, medicine and astrology. As we will see, the Magi knew about the prophesy of Balaam in Numbers 24 where we read, "...there shall a star come out of Jacob..." God awakened in the Magi the desire to seek Jesus.


Present the book of Matthew

Matthew tells us the story of the Wisemen. He writes, "After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, "Where is the one who has been born King of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him." Remember King Herod? Well, the Bible says, "When King Herod heard about this he was disturbed (one translation says ‘terrified’) and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law he asked them where the Christ was to be born. ‘In Bethlehem in Judea’ they replied, for this is what the prophet has written, ‘but you Bethlehem, in the land of Judah are by no means least among the rulers of Judah, for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd over my people Israel.’

"Then King Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him report to me, so that I too may go and worship him." So they went on their way and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.
When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary and they bowed down and worshipped him.

Present large box...

Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, and of frankincense and of myrrh.

Open box...

Gold, frankincense and myrrh - why these gifts?

Unwrap the gold.

Why gold? Gold is very precious - it is hard to find and that makes gold very expensive. The Wisemen believed that a new king had been born. Gold, an expensive gift, was often given to kings. Will Jesus become a king - like King David - leading armies into battle? Was gold the right gift to give to Jesus?

Unwrap the frankincense.

Frankincense - this incense was used in the Temple by the priests. It was burned on the altar which was just in front of the curtain which separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the Temple. The smoke drifted upward and the Jews believed that God smelled the sweet smelling smoke and was pleased. It was also a picture of the prayers of the people that went up to God. The Wise men gave Jesus a gift which was used by the priests. Will Jesus grow up to become a priest? Remember the prophets gave the people messages from God; priests gave the offerings and messages to God for the people. They interceded to God for the people. Was frankincense the right gift for Jesus?

Unwrap the myrrh.

And then myrrh - do you know what myrrh is? Myrrh was made into a beautiful and expensive perfume.
In Jesus day even very poor people would buy this expensive perfume. They would buy it when someone they loved had died. They anointed the body so that it would cover the smell of the body as it was turning to dust and bones. It was a way of honoring the person they loved - it showed they cared. Was myrrh the right gift for Jesus?

Gold, frankincense and myrrh - it seems that these gifts are signs full of special meaning for Jesus and for us.

Information and possible discussion questions:

When the Magi saw Jesus they bowed down and worshipped him – (they put their foreheads on the floor and submitted to Jesus – they acknowledged him as Lord.) Remember, all true worship expresses itself in giving. Think about this.
Do you worship yourself, or do you worship God?
What do you give yourself? What do you give God?
When did Jesus call himself a king? (at his trial in front of Pilate)
Was Jesus a king on this earth? Is Jesus a king now ?
Why were the people in Jesus day confused about his kingship?
Can you think of a way Mary and Joseph might have used the gold? (Perhaps to finance their trip to Egypt.)
Why was frankincense a good and right gift for Jesus? How was Jesus a priest? (He is an intercessor. He paid for us; he prays for us.)
When was Jesus anointed with expensive perfume? What did some people think about that?
What did Jesus say about it? (He connected the action with his death.)
Can you think of a time when Jesus was anointed with myrrh? (At his burial – 75 pounds of Myrrh!)
When you give gifts do they mean something to you or the person you give them to?
Why is it important to put some thought into the gifts that you give?

The Magi’s greatest treasures were given to Him who had become their greatest treasure.


What do you think it means to give Jesus gold? We give him our hearts; we give him our hearts treasure - the dearest things or people. We give him the best we have.

Frankincense? Our prayers, praise, thanksgiving. Tell him you love him. Thank him. Be joyful that you belong to Him.

Myrrh? Kneel at the cross. See Jesus bearing your sins there. Deny yourself anything today that does not please Him.

Prayer. Hold hands and have a "concert prayer" where everyone prays their own prayer aloud.

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