When the Magi visited Jesus, they brought three gifts for him as an expression of their worship. These gifts were gold, frankincense and myrrh (Matt 2:11). They have been traditionally understood to be symbolic of the roles that Jesus would play as king, priest and prophet.
Sermon One – Gold for Jesus the King
Gold is commonly seen as a gift for a king. It denotes royal splendour and authority. The gift of gold recognises the kingship of Christ. This is commonly brought out in the gospels when the kingdom is taught upon, in the epistles as his divine authority at the right hand of God is denoted and in Revelation as we see Jesus coming again as conquering and victorious king. This sermon can explore the authority of Jesus over the world and over our lives, and reflect on the good news that the highest king is one who is totally just, righteous and full of compassion.
Sermon Two – Frankincense for Jesus the Priest
It was common in the Old Testament for the priests to offer incense before God, and this gift highlights Jesus fulfilling the role of priest. The book of Hebrews describes him as the great high priest, and shows how he fulfilled the role far better than the priests of the old covenant. The purpose of priests was to represent the people before God, and Christ could do this perfectly. Having come as a human he could truly identify and empathise with sinful humanity, but as the sinless one his sacrifice could truly deal with sin in a way that the previous sacrifices of bulls and goats were never truly able to do. Because Jesus is our priest we can be fully reconciled to God.
Sermon Three – Myrrh for Jesus the Prophet
Myrrh was typically used as part of the preparation of dead bodies for burial. It would usually be considered an odd gift to give a child, but for Jesus it was fitting. His purpose of coming was to die, and in this he would be the fulfilment of the prophets, who not only predicted the suffering servant with their words, but frequently tasted death themselves at the hands of the people they were speaking to. Jesus himself spoke of how a succession of prophets culminating in the son would be sent to the people of Israel and would be killed as part of their rebellion against the Father (Matt 20:1-16). For this prophet, though, death was not the end of the story and in his resurrection, Jesus brought us a yet fuller revelation of God.