“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.”
With gold, frankincense, and myrrh, the Magi reveal Christ’s identity and mission:
- Gold signifies the royal majesty of Jesus, revealing Him as King.
- Frankincense is an incense used for worship, revealing Him as God.
- Myrrh is used to prepare a body for burial, thus foreshadowing His Death.
Through their gifts, the Magi also teach us what true worship looks like:
- Gold – We give our money and labor to support the Church.
- Frankincense – We give the Lord right worship, which pleases Him.
- Myrrh – We imitate Christ’s sacrificial death, giving ourselves for others.
In addition to the gold, frankincense, and myrrh, the wise men also provided us with some additional lessons for proper worship of the King:
The Magi gave Jesus the gift of their physical presence. They didn’t stay in Persia and wait for Jesus to come to them. Once they learned of God’s chosen location, they spent a lot of money and traveled for many months, so they could worship Him in person. How many people sleep-in on Sunday mornings, because they don’t want to drive an hour to church? The three wise men teach us the value of traveling to the correct location. When it comes time to worship, one of the most important things is simply showing up.
The Magi also demonstrate the importance of physical participation in worship. As it is written in Matthew’s gospel, the wise men “fell down and worshiped” Jesus. They did not merely harbor worshipful feelings in their hearts . . . they demonstrated their worship by kneeling and bowing before Him. We should do likewise.
The Magi remind us that true worship involves giving to God, not merely trying to get something from Him. The word “liturgy” means “the work of the people”, and that is precisely what genuine worship requires: work. When we get out of bed early on Sunday, abstain from food all morning, show up for worship, put our hard-earned money in the offering box at church, and then pour ourselves wholeheartedly into worship, participating in the Divine Liturgy, we can offer God a form of worship which truly pleases Him. The rest of the week, when we pour out our lives as a living sacrifice, humbling ourselves and serving others, daily seeking to imitate the humility of Christ’s sacrificial death, we demonstrate the evidence of the Holy Spirit living within us, conforming us more and more closely to the image of Christ.
There is nothing wrong with asking God to heal us. But that is not worship.
There is nothing wrong with requesting God’s blessings. But that is not worship.
There is nothing wrong with having mountaintop experiences and pleasurable feelings.
But that is not worship.
The word “worship” comes from the old word “worth-ship”, for in worship, we proclaim the great and boundless worth of our Creator.
By traveling a great distance,
By physically kneeling and bowing before Jesus,
By giving Him costly gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh,
The Magi proclaimed the immeasurable worth of Christ.
In our worship of Christ, may we do likewise.