"You shall make an altar on which to burn incense; you shall make it of acacia wood. A cubit shall be its length, and a cubit its breadth. It shall be square, and two cubits shall be its height. Its horns shall be of one piece with it. You shall overlay it with pure gold, its top and around its sides and its horns. And you shall make a moulding of gold around it." (Exodus 30:1-3)
The Lord said to Moses, "Take the finest spices: of liquid myrrh 500 shekels, and of sweet-smelling cinnamon half as much, that is, 250, and 250 of aromatic cane, 24 and 500 of cassia, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, and a hin of olive oil. And you shall make of these a sacred anointing oil blended as by the perfumer; it shall be a holy anointing oil." (Exodus 30:22-25 ESV)
The Lord said to Moses, "Take sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum, sweet spices with pure frankincense (of each shall there be an equal part), and make an incense blended as by the perfumer, seasoned with salt, pure and holy. You shall beat some of it very small, and put part of it before the testimony in the tent of meeting where I shall meet with you. It shall be most holy for you." (Exodus 30:34-36)
In this one chapter of Exodus, chapter 30, where God informs Moses the procedure where the priest may enter into the presence of God himself, we encounter the Magi's gifts again. Gold, frankincense and myrrh. I believe this reveals the most significant and prophetic aspect of these three gifts: They relate to the presence of God himself!
Even in the previous passage relating to Solomon we can see imagery that is rich with symbolism of the presence of God himself. The column of smoke in the wilderness and the golden "seat" transported on two poles. Strong parallels with the presence of God above the ark during the time of the exodus.
Before Jesus came to die, he came to live and fulfil the prophecy of Immanuel - God with us. Jesus was (and is!) the very presence of God in the midst of his people in a way that the ark and the temple could only foreshadow. God himself became flesh and dwelt among us. The Magi's gifts were thus also a fitting prophetic declaration that now one greater than the temple was here!
Frankincense was made into incense used by the high priest when he entered before the presence of God.
Myrrh was made into the holy anointing oil used on God's prophets, priests and kings.
Gold was used to cover everything in the temple that communicated the glorious presence of God himself.
Jesus came as our great high priest to bring us back into the presence of God. He came as the Christ - the anointed one - to live a life full of the power of the Holy Spirit. He came as king and to reveal the glory of God the father.
But there is still one more truth to unlock. For the true message of Christmas is not the gifts the Magi gave to the Christ, but the gift God in Christ gave to the world. The gold, frankincense and myrrh are also prophetic of the gifts that Christ still gives to us.
He has opened up the way for us to come freely into the presence of God. He has poured out the Holy Spirit for us to live in his anointing. He has given us authority to demonstrate the glory of his presence - his here and now kingdom rule on earth as it is in heaven. Frankincense, myrrh and gold - given by Christ to all those who have called on his name.
Have a wonderful Christmas.