Last Sunday, as we peeled some of the layers of interpretations and traditions from the song, “We Three Kings of Orient Are” my spiritual imagination was freed to re-appreciate “the gifts that keep on giving” (as Pastor Dusty put it) in my own relationship with The King:
Gold: The beauty and high value we ascribe to gold in both art and commerce represents my Material Self. It encompasses everything I prize most highly: time, wealth, vocational industry, hobbies and even Bible study. It reminds me that my industry can be idolatrous (Isaiah 2:8 – … they bow down to the work of their hands, to what their own fingers have made) often marked by slavish dissatisfaction. But God has the antidote: Colossians 3:23 … whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men …. Gold reminds me that when I place my treasures before him I am less likely to get caught up in superficial or self-aggrandizing activities.
Frankincense: Treasured most for its fragrance, frankincense has an ethereal quality. Like my Spiritual Self it can’t be held or quantified in a material sense. It is the realm where attitudes, values and true motives for my industry hide out. This is where my life can become a fragrance of Christ to God (2 Corinthians 2:15) or a stench of deceit and manipulations. This is the realm in which the paradox of Matthew 10:39 plays out: Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. When I give God the “life-line” of notions that keep me self-justified, He returns to me truly abundant life in the Spirit.
Myrrh: The bitter, earthy nature of myrrh parallels the failures of my Mortal Self. But its medicinal properties also indicate the sweetness of remedy: God sent Jesus as the oil of gladness instead of mourning (Isaiah 61:13). I can hide (withhold) my mortality in shame (as Adam and Eve did), or I can believe in His mercy, be honest (vulnerable) and give myself to God’s perfect love – the love that casts out fear (1John 4:18). When I give him my fear, my anxiety, my failure, He exchanges it for peace that passes understanding (Philippians 4:7).
I will not hear this Christmas song the same way again … How about you?
Romans 12:1 – I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.