The wise men from the east arrived in Bethlehem some time after the birth of Christ. The Lord Jesus was referred to as “the young child” and the family is no longer at the manger, but in a “house” (Matthew 2:9-11) by the time they arrive. It is a beautiful reminder that the worship of Christ and celebration of His coming is not just to be limited to one day. Guest author and ETJ contributor John Buckner wrote the following article while in the Holy Land. We trust this brief study will bring greater significance to the story of the wise men and to your own worship of our Savior.

Jerusalem, December 2022

Have you ever bought a gift for a newborn boy? It is never easy because you don’t know what to get him or what he likes. The most sensible answer is to find out what his father likes and buy him something related to that. That is why you will see the newborn sons of baseball fans with onesies reading “Daddy’s Little Outfielder.” Or, if the father likes fishing, football, or some other sport or hobby, the gift to the son will often reflect what His father likes or wants.

When the wise men came from the east, they did not know Jesus personally, so they brought Him gifts that they knew would please His Father. How did they know? Jesus’ Father wrote about it in His book. In Exodus 30, God commanded Moses to make an altar overlaid with gold, a special incense whose principal ingredient was frankincense, and a bespoke anointing oil of myrrh.

God said in verse 6 to put the golden altar just outside the veil, and for the high priest to burn His frankincense creation on it every morning and every evening. This golden altar was in the holy place, and just outside of the holy of holies. If you read Exodus 30:22-33, it is clear that everything in the Tabernacle, and later the Temple, was anointed with the myrrh-based perfume that God Himself designed, including the priests themselves. It is as if God is saying in Exodus 30, “I want my house to have the heady aroma of frankincense and myrrh.” One could go so far as to claim that those are God’s favorite aromatics. Out of the millions of scents on earth, He chose those and said, “these are the eternal scents of my worship.”

The gifts the wise men brought Jesus were not random. They were carefully chosen for the Son because of the Father and what He likes. The gifts at Jesus’ birth speak of the holy place, the holy of holies, and of worship of the God of Heaven. The gifts point to Jesus as the Father’s Messiah, His Holy Anointed One. They also point to Jesus’ future fulfillment of the other subjects of Exodus 30: as High Priest He made atonement (verse 10), He ransomed our souls (verse 12), and He washed us so that we can fearlessly approach the altar (verse 18). It is as if the wise men’s gifts are whispering, “We know you are the Messiah prophesied in Scriptures.”

At Christmas, we often think of what gifts to give to Jesus. The answer is to do what the wise men appear to have done: search the Scriptures carefully to find out what the Father wants and give Jesus that. As Jesus said during the feast of dedication one cold December day here in Jerusalem, “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30).