So Bring Him Incense
So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh;
Come peasant, king to own Him.
The King of Kings salvation brings;
Let loving hearts enthrone Him.
This, this is Christ the King
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing.
Haste, haste to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.
It is one of the more beloved Christmas carols, “What Child Is This.” This verse of the hymn always causes me pause to think of how brilliantly these gifts of the Magi foreshadow the whole Gospel story of Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection and even His second coming when every knee shall bow and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of the Father.
I mean it is a strange thing indeed that Magi should visit the Lord, that they should be the ones to bend the knee to this child. Magi, Matthew calls them. It’s a word used for stargazers, dream interpreters, tea leaf readers and necromancers. They were priests of false gods who served foreign kings practicing dark arts forbidden to the pious believers of every generation. Yet, it is they whom God summons to proclaim the Gospel and fulfill the prophecies of Isaiah:
A multitude of camels shall cover you,
the young camels of Midian and Ephah;
all those from Sheba shall come.
They shall bring gold and frankincense,
and shall bring good news, the praises of the LORD.
– Isaiah 60:6
Gold and frankincense explain themselves. It is myrrh that most often causes confusion. It always reminds me of Monty Python’s “The Life of Brian.” Like most of us, the mother has no clue what myrrh is. We may vaguely remember a children’s sermon or Sunday school lesson that tries to explain it. Perhaps, we remember that Nicodemus brings gallons of it when he comes to claim Christ’s body from the cross, but we have never handled it, or traded it in Egypt like the brothers of Joseph. It is not the cologne of choice when we are trying to impress our bride as it is used in the Song of Solomon. And it would seem that the Magi who offer this as their gift would rather conjure up clouds of gloom than the good news spoken of in Isaiah. Yet, it is the myrrh that brings the good news and praises of the Lord.
The text doesn’t tell us how many magi came to visit, but people have taken from the three gifts that there were three magi. The one brought gold, a gift fitting for a king. This recognizes that He is our King, the King of kings to Whom all owe tribute. The next brought frankincense—this was the incense of priests. With this His priestly office was honored.
However, it was the third that brought the Good News and the praise of the Lord in the form of myrrh foretelling His death for our salvation. It was this gift that foretold the gift of our Lord for all the world, the blood shed that we would no longer need to consult horoscopes and palm readers in fear for our future, but could trust in the benevolence of our God who sent His Son that we could read our future, no longer in the gizzards of a necromancer’s sacrifice but in the wounds of a risen Christ Who paid for our sins with His blood.
Rev. Bror Erickson serves as pastor of Zion Lutheran Church in Farmington, New Mexico. He graduated from Concordia University Irvine in 2000 where he studied apologetics under Dr. Rosenbladt, and Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, Indiana in 2004. He likes to translate the works of Bo Giertz and Hermann Sasse. He also enjoys writing reviews for Amazon.com and critiquing modern culture with the Gospel.
Bo Giertz wrote this book drawing upon the exegetical insights that he received from his mentor Anton Fridrichsen before, during and after his trip to Palestine in the early 1930's. The book is a third-person retelling of the Gospels that brings into account various Old Testament references and the contemporary interpretations of those passages by the Jews of Jesus' day as well as contemporary events throughout the Roman Empire,