A Royal Celebration

January 6, 2012
by Lori Ciccanti

Matthew 2:2,11 – "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him." On coming to the house, [the Magi] saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. (NIV)

On January 6th, many in the Spanish culture celebrate what is known as El Dia De Los Tres Reyes Majos or Three Kings Day. As a child, I was amazed to hear my mother tell stories of how she observed this special holiday. Surprisingly, in her family tradition, this occasion was even more eventful than Christmas. Later, I realized how the custom of gift-giving on Three Kings Day may suitably draw more attention to the birth of Jesus after the hustle and bustle of a busy, more commercialized Christmas season.

However, contrary to tradition, the Bible record does not say that the Magi were kings or how many followed the star. Interestingly, their background connects them to the prophet Daniel who was "chief of the magicians" in Babylon. These Magi, although considered wise, were not able to interpret King Nebuchadnezzar's dream (Daniel 2:5,24), even at risk of losing their lives. Therefore, Daniel saved them from the king's murderous wrath when he demonstrated the Lord's power by revealing both the dream and its prophetic meaning. As a result, future generations of Magi became familiar with the Hebrew prophecies, and when the star appeared to them, they understood that it meant the birth of an extraordinary king.

Although the giving of gifts was in keeping with oriental tradition, most would agree that the gifts presented to Jesus had a deeper, more profound significance. How fitting that gold, most precious of all metals, be given to the One who was born King. Frankincense, an expensive aromatic resin, was said to have medicinal properties and was even used to treat depression in the ancient world. It was also burned for its calming aroma in temple worship and other special occasions; hence, it represents the priestly ministry of Christ. Myrrh, the most unusual of the three gifts, is derived from a tough tree that grows in the semi-desert climate of North Africa. It was used as an antiseptic and embalming ointment, and reminds us of our Lord's great sacrifice.

After pondering the wonderful meaning of our Saviour's gifts, I was struck by a beautiful Christmas card I received from a friend. It read something like this:

This invitation is extended to all people everywhere who are willing to follow the example of the Magi. Hopefully, you will not miss this opportunity to celebrate the One who was born King of kings, bearing the most precious gift of all — your heart. Please RSVP.

Prayer: O Lord our King, on this special day of Epiphany, we humbly acknowledge the royal invitation that is ours to seek Your awesome presence and worship before Your throne of grace. Like the wise men, may we give no less than our very best, loving You always with all our soul, strength, and mind. In Jesus' holy name, we pray. Amen.

About the author:

Lori Ciccanti <dlalsina@mchsi.com>
Ocean View, Delaware, USA

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