[Editor’s Note: Today’s article is an excerpt adapted from this year’s Advent study, Fulfilled. We pray that as you reflect on Jesus as the fulfillment of all God’s plans and promises and the satisfier of the deepest longings of your soul, your heart would be stirred to worship him.]
I’ve always found the wise men to be the most head-scratching part of the story of Jesus’ birth. Who were these men? Where did they come from? Why did they know the Old Testament prophecies? How long were they watching for the star? How, logistically, does following a star even work?
We are not going to answer all these questions today. Instead, we’ll consider the one detail of their narrative that everyone knows: their gifts. I delight in a well-chosen gift that especially connects with the personality of the receiver. Just like the presents we carefully select for our loved ones to open on this Christmas morning, the gifts of the wise men tell us something about their receiver, Jesus.
Gifts Worthy of a King
Gold, frankincense, and myrrh were costly gifts that served as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies (Ps. 72:10; Isa. 60:6). These valuable gifts proclaimed the value of Jesus. They were gifts worthy of a king!
They also echo the Old Testament roles we’ve learned about. In gold, we see a reminder that Jesus is the King of kings. Frankincense was used as an expensive perfume and burned as incense. As we saw last week, incense was often used as part of prayer. Both the Old Testament prophets and priests took part in interceding to God for his people. The final gift, myrrh, was a gift typically used in burials. It would have served as a reminder of the necessity of death.
Thirty-three years later, the baby that the wise men worshipped would offer himself once and for all as the perfect sacrifice for our sins. The King of kings, the better Word, would act as the Great High Priest, conquering sin and death to be everything we need in a Savior.
The gifts of the wise men were perfectly suited for Jesus, but even more than that, they were acts of worship. Even as a baby, the wise men recognized the value and lordship of Jesus and bowed before him, offering the gifts worthy of our Savior. Jesus may have been born in a lowly manger and grown up in humble circumstances, but the wise men ascribed to him glory and honor with their sacrifices and fell down and worshipped him.
Better Than Expected
Though these wise men perceived the value of Christ, Israel missed the very Wisdom of God because he wasn’t what they had expected or hoped for. Their foolish hearts were dark to the splendor of a better king. Instead of remaining above and aloof, he stooped low and engaged. He was not unapproachable; rather, he lived among the lost so that we could always draw near to him. Instead of conquering their political enemies, he conquered sin and death. Instead of redeeming them from outward slavery, Christ rescued them from lifelong slavery to their fear of death (Heb. 2:15).
To those whose eyes have been opened to the glorious truth of the gospel, Jesus is no disappointment. He is better than expected. He is the answer to all our burning questions. He is the source of abundant life. He fulfills the deepest longings of our souls with himself. He is our rescuer and ruler, our good news, our perfect sacrifice. He is Jesus Christ, and he is LORD, risen again and reigning forever.
Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus
Today, spend some time reading (and if you can, listening to and singing!) the Christmas hymn “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus” by Charles Wesley. Reflect on any lyrics that remind you of what you have learned about Jesus through your study of the Word this Advent season.
Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in thee.
Israel's strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art;
dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart.
Born thy people to deliver,
born a child and yet a King,
born to reign in us forever,
now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal spirit
rule in all our hearts alone;
by thine all sufficient merit,
raise us to thy glorious throne.
Read the first Advent meditation, The Best Gift, here.
Find the second Advent meditation, Fulfilled by Following Our Servant King, here.
The third Advent meditation, Fulfilled by Resting in the Word With Us, here.
And the fourth Advent meditation, Fulfilled by Confidence in the Perfect Priest, here.