Thursday, December 20, 2012


Maybe your gift isn't so much gold.  If that is the case, consider myrrh.

Myrrh is a sap or a resin drawn from a specific tree that would have been potentially plentiful in the area around Jerusalem, but the value of myrrh cannot be overstated.  It had two primary purposes: to cleanse and to heal.

This treasure of the earth was valuable as a perfume.  We're talking before running water and before the invention of soap here, people.  We're talking about the kind of substance that makes a man clean - and when the Bible says perfume, it's not necessarily gender-oriented as we would say perfume today. That is, it wouldn't have had to aromafy a woman; men would have used myrrh, too.  (Otherwise, the wise man would have given the myrrh to the Christ child and said, "My wife sends her best.")

This precious resin was also beneficial as a salve.  It was used to dress wounds.  Something in the chemical makeup of myrrh healed a broken flesh and soothed whatever pain might have been associated with it.

People needed myrrh.  It was this fantastical, wonderful magical thing that both cleansed them and healed them.

How fitting that a wise man took myrrh to the manger.

In laying it down, he in essence said, "Lord, I have trusted in the things of this world to make me clean and to heal me.  I have taken what I can to make myself whole.  But it's nothing.  I am an odorous man whose flesh has been torn by this place, and this myrrh is not enough.  I lay it at Your feet in recognition that You are the only healing, cleansing salve I need."

We are a people who turn to this world to cleanse us and make us whole.  We use what we know of this place to justify what we've done wrong, to justify the wrongs done to us, to overlook the sinful, broken things and to somehow manage to make it through.  We are a people who have bought the lie that there must be something here that will make us whole, and we've spent our lives going after it.  Taking whatever we can get.

What's interesting about myrrh is that harvesting it does permanent damage to the tree.  In the same way, whatever we take from the world in order to cleanse or heal ourselves is something we so often cannot give back.  It's something that makes a permanent mark on some aspect of our reality, some measure of our world.  And truth be told, it doesn't do a whole lot of healing or cleansing in the process.

We still feel like dirty, broken people.  For good reason....we are precisely that!

But we don't have to be.  In a small stable in Bethlehem, God sent our Savior to bind up our wounds and to wash us clean.  All we have to do is take our myrrh to Him.  Take what this world is selling that sells us too short and lay it at His feet and confess, "Lord, I am but a broken, dirty man and my flesh is torn.  I give You my myrrh because it isn't enough; I cannot take from this world any more.  And I cannot heal nor cleanse myself.  So I'm going to stop trying and instead give it to You.  You are the perfume and the healing salve I seek."

And God is faithful to mend.

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