When Jesus was born (and yes, I know it's Easter week, not Christmas), three wise men came bearing gifts. One came bearing gold. One, frankincense. And one, myrrh.
Myrrh must have been very confusing for Mary.
Because myrrh, far and above its other uses in these times, was associated with the burial. It was an embalming spice. It's one of the things you put on the body to keep it from smelling...so much. And so it's not really something you would expect one to give a newborn baby or his mother. I mean, wait? Is someone dying?
Dying wasn't part of the gig. Mary didn't know that up front. At least, not in any of the Christmas stories I've read. She is told that she will have a child by the Holy Spirit. She is told that He will be the Savior of the world. She is told that He will be called Immanuel, "God with us." How can God with us be not with us? How can God with us be destined to die? Yet here is this wise man, and he comes bearing the gift of myrrh.
It's a strange gift, indeed.
Until, that is, 33 years later when Jesus finally needs it. Until, that is, they take His body off the Cross and lay it in a tomb. Until, that is, His mother is crying inconsolable tears at the foot of that Cross. And she suddenly remembers - someone already knew this. Someone was already preparing Him for this. Someone anointed Him with myrrh the day He was born, knowing, perhaps, that He would one day die.
I don't know about you, but my life has been full of strange gifts. Things that have come to me that I never would have thought I'd needed. Some, I would have hoped I'd never need. Most that didn't make much sense at the time. That didn't make any sense at all.
Until, that is, they came to make perfect sense. Until, that is, the day came that I needed precisely that. Until, that is, a moment arrived and the best possible thing I could have had at that moment was that strange gift, and the knowing that that strange gift came long before I needed it. It's a reminder that someone already knew this. Someone was already preparing me for this. Someone anointed me with my strange gifts the day I was born, knowing...knowing...that one day, I would need them.
Maybe that's you right now. Maybe you're surrounded by strange gifts, and you're not really sure what to make of them. Maybe you're wondering what's ever going to come of these things, what on earth you're going to do with myrrh. Just wait. The time is coming. The time is coming when it will make perfect sense, when it will be the perfect gift.
And you'll look back and think to yourself, huh. Someone already knew this.