As Christmas approaches, I find myself full of the Christmas spirit. As such, I have been pondering the birth of Christ and what it must have been like for each person. It has been a fun thing to consider and I hope to share more of those thoughts as we get closer to Christmas. But today, I thought I might share some ponderings on the gifts of the Magi.
Suddenly, after having read the story many many times, my brain wondered what Mary and Joseph did with the gifts. As a mom, my children have received many gifts over the years and as I think of gifts they received near their birth (or within the first 2-3 years), there are very very few that are still around. We handed things down to other babies, either our own or those of friends. We gave things to charities such as the Goodwill or Salvation Army. Very little of it was kept, only a few choice items such as a favorite teddy bear or blanket. Would Marry and Joseph have done the same?
The gold is easy, and yet absolutely soul drenchingly amazing. The Magi brought with them news that Herod was seeking the child. Joseph had a dream and their lives changed, yet again. This part of the story is so powerful to me. I had to stop to think about it….what if my husband had a dream last night and woke up today and told me we had to move? Not just move, but leave our country. That would be hard.
Imagine the scramble as Mary and Joseph clamored to decide what they should take as they fled. I am reminded of the scene of people leaving their homes during a natural emergency. What do you take? What do you need? What do you leave behind in your haste?
Did they tell anyone they were leaving? Did they have a chance to say goodbye to their family? Do you think either of them scribbled a hasty note on parchment hoping their loved ones would find it and read between the lines. Something simple, like, “Fear not, God is with us.” Who do you suppose was the first one to discover they were gone? Did their family search for them? Did Mary’s mother cry herself to sleep with worry, desperate to know where her daughter and grandchild were?
How did they travel, on foot? By donkey? Did they join a caravan or stay to themselves? Where did they sleep along the way? What do you suppose they took with them? What would you take?
By all accounts, Mary and Joseph weren’t wealthy. Now they had to flee to a new country and start over. They would need provisions and a place to stay when they got there. Can you imagine the stir in Mary’s heart as she heard the news and then glanced at the gold the Magi had brought only the night before? God had provided for their journey. They would have the means to do that which must be done. Can you imagine the comfort that had to bring as she gathered up her young child and fled her country? It makes sense that the gold served as a very practical gift that helped them make the journey God knew they would be on.
But what about the Frankenscense and Myrrh? What do you think they did with it? Frankincense is a scented oil that can be used as a perfume but it also has anti-inflammatory effects. It was often used by priests in the Temple and was expensive. We know the symbolism – what I wonder about is what did Mary and Joseph use it for? Can you picture Mary dabbing some on her neck or rubbing her aching feet with it? Do you suppose they sold it to buy Jesus new shoes when his old ones wore out? Can you picture her massaging it into Josephs sore hands after a long day of carpentry? Do you think instead, that she wrapped it up carefully and nestled it to the bottom corner of a trunk where she left it, only removing it for special occasions?
What about the Myrrh? It is well known that Myrrh was used in burial, Mary and Joseph would have known this. But it also had other uses, in the Far East, where the Magi were from, it was used to promote digestive health, wound healing and even women’s health issues. Combined, Frankenscense and Myrrh had an antimicrobial effect. Do you think Mary used it? Do you suppose she and Joseph discussed it long into the night wondering what to do with it? Perhaps she saved the Myrrh, getting it out only after her beloved son had been crucified. Or perhaps, she and Jesus decided to use it when Joseph passed. Maybe. Maybe it was long gone before then used in some much more practical way years before.
We have no way of knowing really, but I have enjoyed thinking about it and wondering.