Thursday, December 14, 2017


The third gift brought to the baby Jesus by the wise men was a gift of frankincense, an expensive and aromatic oil. And this frankincense, too, we see one more time in Jesus's story.

It comes the second time in the hands of a woman, a sinful woman, if we are to listen to what the Pharisees say about her. She bursts into Simon's house while Jesus and His disciples are having lunch with the men of the town and she falls at His feet, breaking open a jar of expensive perfume and pouring it over Him, along with her tears. 

Frankincense was a perfuming ingredient most primarily, and it was also a vital part of anointing oil and embalming oil. When Jesus declares that this woman, who has given Him this most expensive and precious gift, has prepared His body for what is to come, it's a good indication that in this perfume was frankincense - at least two of its primary purposes were wrapped up in this one offering.

Which is, of course, a second offering.

It's highly unlikely that when the wise men brought frankincense to the newborn babe, they thought it would be an embalming oil. No one comes to embalm the Savior of the World when He is just a few breaths old; no one would even consider that He would ever die at all. After all, isn't He the Promise? How does the Promise die? 

And it's unlikely that you would give a baby boy a bottle of expensive perfume simply because it smells nice; newborns already smell nice. The stable could probably have used a little help in the odor department, but nobody brings a baby shower gift to give the barn. It would be like taking a bottle of bleach to the hospital. It doesn't make sense.

Which means that when the wise men brought frankincense, they likely brought it as an anointing oil, a recognition of Jesus's purpose as priest, a recognition of His standing before God. It only makes sense to anoint God's Son, after all. God would probably approve of that. 

Interestingly, when the woman does it, it is also an anointing, even though Jesus says it is essentially an embalming. It is a recognition of Jesus's purpose in this world, a recognition of His standing before God. This woman pours out the frankincense, which Jesus has already received once, and anoints Him again for the trial He is about to face, which is also holy. 

It's pretty cool, really. 

And it's beautiful, in exactly all the ways that we expect God to do beautiful things with even the most mundane, or weird, among us. I mean, c'mon - who brings a baby frankincense? 

Only a wise man.

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