Those Sorry Gifts from Three Wise Men

Growing up, I often felt ripped-off at Christmas. Because my birthday is December 15, I often heard: “Wayne, this is your birthday-Christmas gift.”

I thought, Hey, gee, thanks.

Those Sorry Three Gifts from Wise Men

(Photo by Patrick-br CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

I wanted to tell the person whose birthday was in August, “Yeah, and here’s your birthday-Christmas gift too.” (Those of you with December birthdays understand.)

As a kid, I also hated getting clothes for Christmas (particularly underwear). Some people just don’t know how to give age-appropriate gifts to kids.

When I read the Christmas story, it seems the three Wise Men didn’t have much experience shopping for children either.

The Sorry Gifts from Three Wise Men

As kids, we wanted our gifts to be age-appropriate.

I mean, you’re expecting a train set or a baseball mitt, and out of the box falls a package of Fruit of the Looms. It was embarrassing. Why did I get underwear? Does that mean if it weren’t Christmas I wouldn’t have any?

Think about the three seemingly sorry gifts Jesus got from the three Wise Men. These gifts, while hardly age-appropriate, actually represented tremendous insight into the identity of the toddler. (Remember, Jesus was at least two years old when the three Wise Men came.)

Usually when we sing the carol, “We Three Kings,” we only sing the first verse. But the other verses reveal the significance of the three “sorry” gifts the Wise Men gave:

Born a king on Bethlehem’s plain, gold I bring to crown Him again.
King forever, ceasing never, over us all to reign.

The wise men knew Jesus would be a king, so they gave Him gold (Matthew 2:2).

  • Gold has always represented royalty, usually because only kings could have such precious metals.
  • But this gift was also God’s provision for Mary and Joseph as they would flee to Egypt to avoid Herod’s slaughter of the innocents.
The three gifts from the Wise Men showed insight.

(Photo by John Flaxman. Public Domain)

Frankincense to offer have I; Incense owns a Deity nigh;
Prayer and Praising, all men raising, worship Him, God on high.

In the Old Testament, frankincense had its place in the worship of God (Leviticus 2:1-2).

  • By giving Jesus frankincense, the Wise Men were identifying Jesus as the Lord.
  • And this fits the context, for when they saw Him, “they fell to the ground and worshiped Him” (Matthew 2:11).

Myrrh is mine: its bitter perfume. Breathes a life of gathering gloom—
sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying, sealed in the stone-cold tomb.

Myrrh was essentially a perfume, sometimes worn around the neck, sometimes used to make cheap wine taste better.

  • But it was commonly used to embalm dead bodies. I’m sure Mary and Joseph stared at each other with uneasiness as the three Wise Men presented this token of death to Jesus.
  • In fact, Jesus was anointed with myrrh after He died (John 19:39).

Jesus’ three sorry gifts could not have been more appropriate.

(Here’s a recording of an instrumental medley I played a few years ago in church. It includes “We Three Kings.”)


Sometimes Sorry Gifts are Blessings

Although we’re not sure exactly when the Magi came to the boy Jesus, perhaps it was around Jesus’ birthday.

Hey, who knows?

If so, I like it that Jesus may have heard—as I did each year: “This is your birthday-Christmas gift.”

Question: What unwanted gift have you gotten that turned out to be a blessing? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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