"When they heard the king, they went; and look, the star that they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stood over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were filled with joy. They entered the house and saw the child with Mary his mother. Falling to their knees, they honored him. Then they opened up their treasure chests and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh." (Matthew 2:9-11).
One of the very oldest holiday traditions is the one some people dislike the most - the giving of gifts. It's not the giving that's the problem, it's the trying to figure out what the other person might want, the going out to find it, and the wrapping that brings on stress. Those we call the kings or wise men brought three unique gifts to the baby Jesus. On first glance, none seems suited for an infant; but, if we understand, the gifts were perfect.
Ace Collins notes that at the time of Christ's birth, gold was only given to a loved one or a person of very high standing. This giver must have realized that this child would one day be a king. The frankincense tree was considered sacred, and its oil was used in religious ceremonies. This giver must have realized that this child would one day minister to the needs of the world. Myrrh was a rare and expensive resin used in burials. This giver must have realized that this child would one day lay down his life for all of humankind.
The visitors from the east not only gave these gifts, but they gave of their time. Often, the time that we give to another is the greatest gift of all.
Just four years before the Civil War, John Henry Hopkins, Jr., an Episcopal priest, decided to write a song as a gift for his nieces and nephews. In order to simplify the lyrics, he opted to have a wise man for each of the three gifts given to the baby Jesus. In the 1870s, when "We Three Kings" became a popular carol, it literally rewrote history. Because of this carol, most seem to believe that there were three wise men when in fact the Bible does not mention a number.
We three kings of Orient are,
bearing gifts we traverse afar,
field and fountain, moor and mountain,
following yonder star.
O star of wonder, star of light,
star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
guide us to thy perfect light.