Friday, December 21, 2012

Meaning of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh

When a gift has all three
—practical utility, personal value, and symbolic meaning—
it may be the most thoughtful and appreciated gift of all.

From the New Era magazine we read a wonderful article about the symbolic meaning of the precious gifts of the three wise men; gold, frankincense and myrrh.  These were not just any gifts; they had deep significance and are an example of how we may want to consider gift-giving.

As we focus on giving things of greater value; such as love and kindness, compassion and forgiveness, we can lift and strengthen one another as the Savior would have us do.  Then, the season will have deeper meaning for us as well.

"Many people believe that it’s the thought that counts when it comes to gift giving. Maybe that’s because the thought behind the gift makes it more than just a useful or interesting object—it makes the gift a symbol of the gift-giver’s love or consideration for the recipient. Some gifts also mean more than the thought behind the gift; these kinds of gifts have a widely accepted symbolism that adds even more significance. When a gift has all three—practical utility, personal value, and symbolic meaning—it may be the most thoughtful and appreciated gift of all.

"Consider the thought behind the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh that the Wise Men gave to the Christ child (see Matthew 2:11). The Bible doesn’t say why the Wise Men brought these particular gifts, but all three gifts had practical value and perhaps symbolic meaning for the Son of God and His earthly parents.   

Practical use: For a young couple who would soon have the expense of traveling to Egypt to avoid the wrath of Herod, the gold would be an invaluable gift.
Symbolic meaning: Gold is the typical gift for kings (see 1 Kings 9:14, 28) because it symbolizes kingship and royalty—a fitting gift for the “King of kings” (1 Timothy 6:15).

Practical useAside from its considerable monetary value, frankincense was used as a sweet-smelling incense and perfume. 
Symbolic meaning: Frankincense comes from a sweet tree resin and was used in priesthood ordinances, in burnt offerings (see Leviticus 2:1), and in oil for anointing priests. Thus, it can represent the Lord’s priesthood and His role as the Lamb of God to be sacrificed on our behalf (see John 1:29).   
Practical use:  Myrrh a bitter oil from a tree resin, was also economically valuable but probably more beneficial to Mary and Joseph for its medicinal uses.
Symbolic meaning: In the New Testament, myrrh is usually associated with embalming and burial because of its preservative qualities (see John 19:39–40). Myrrh’s medicinal uses can symbolize Christ’s role as the Master Healer, and its use in burials can symbolize “the bitter cup” He would drink when He suffered for our sins (see D&C 19:18–19)."

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Are You 'Ready' for Christmas?

I've sometimes been asked by well-meaning friends 'are you ready for Christmas?' and...I understand that they are usually asking "do you have all your shopping done, neighbor gifts delivered and preparations for Christmas morning made?"

I'm sure that I've asked that question of others' in the past.  But, I try not to do so anymore as, over the years, I've come to feel much differently about the sacredness of the season and how we can better spend our time learning and listening and feeling the hope and joy this time of year can bring.  I know that as I'm tuned-in to the beauties around me and the reason I celebrate the birth and life of Christ, I have found greater peace and calmness at this time of year.

In the 'hustle and bustle' of the world, including crowd chaos, long lines, frantic shoppers, and stressed families, we've often lost the peace and sacred meaning of the season.  Wishing to do well, people may overspend and purchase things that aren't even really needed or wanted.  Is that something that would be pleasing to the Lord?  Is there something better that could replace those 'expectations' or prideful deceptions we've come to believe are necessary?  Is that what Christmas is really all about?

I tend to believe not.  I think we've often lost many of the sweet and simple pleasures that this season could bring if we'd allow it.  Snow capped mountains, blue skies, bundled-up children, savory smells from kitchen warmth, hugs of friends and family, reading a book on a comfy chair or by the fireplace, Christmas caroling around the neighborhood, concerts or driving around looking at lights, decorating a gingerbread house, watching cute movies with the family, writing to a missionary or soldier or lonely family member, visiting with someone in need etc.  There are so many simple things we can do to lift and bless others' as we focus on the Lord's teachings of caring for one another and living in peace.  There are so many around us who are in need.  By keeping too busy - we often neglect those who could use kindness the most.

For years I've watched family members and friends stress about getting all the Christmas cards out on time and making and delivering neighbor gifts.  I know they mean well, but, I've come to feel that even in some of those 'traditions' we've lost some of the reason we do it.  Is it possible to 'rethink' some of the things that cause us to feel overwhelmed, under-appreciated, and simplify in such a way that would bless us and others'?  

Could we do something totally different that would 'let-go' of expectations and downsize enough to hear the whisperings of the Spirit.  Are all past traditions really necessary?  Do they bring us more peace or do they take away from that which we seek?

In thinking about the busy traditions we may want to ask ourselves if what we're doing is for the best highest good of all involved.  Will it bring us closer to others' or separate us more? (consider the bragging kinds of Christmas cards that tend to divide rather than bless and uplift).  Will these traditions or things we're doing help us keep the commandments, stay out of debt, draw closer to the Lord, have peace in our homes and basically allow us to enjoy the beautiful spirit of the season.

My hope is that we'll all seek to simplify; that we'll focus on things that bring peace, unity, comfort, light and good cheer, and that we'll serve others' in small ways without getting stressed, and that we'll turn our hearts to the Savior; the Light of the World, who will help us do those things.