Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Myrrh at Christmas Time

Did you know myrrh was present at the birth of Christ, used in His death, and will be smelled in His return?

Birth of Jesus - Matthew 2:11 – The Visit of the Magi
“On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.”

Death of Jesus - John 19:39-40 – The Burial of Jesus
“He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy five pounds. Taking Jesus body the two of the m wrapped it, with the spices in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs.”

Jesus Returns for His Bride - Psalm 45:8
“All your robes are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia…”

Psalm 45 is a song in praise of the king on his wedding day and depicts a foreshadowing of Christ. After the exile this psalm was applied to the Messiah, the promised Son of David who would sit on David’s throne. (taken from NIV Study Notes)
The Scent of Jesus

Often I crave alone time to just sit and think about Jesus. I imagine in my mind different scenarios of what it must have been like to have lived during the time of Christ and actually see him face to face as he spoke. How deep was his voice or did he sing tenor? How would his hand have felt as it brushed over top of mine walking amongst the crowds? Did Christ have a scent that lingered which would remind me of his presence throughout the day long after his departure to the next town? Would this scent cause me to seek him even more with the desire to capture another moment of grace in his presence?

At the birth of Jesus, the magi brought the new King incense and myrrh
(Matthew 2:11). What is the origin of these two gifts? God instructed Moses to “Make an alter…” in the Tent of Meeting (Exodus 30:1) and on this alter Aaron was to burn incense every morning and also when he lighted the lamps at night fall. The fragrant smoke that rose from the burning of incense symbolized the prayers of God’s people. God commanded Moses (Exodus 30:34-35) to make the incense from equal parts of gum resin, which is taken from the middle of hardened drops of myrrh. This was very rare and very valuable. Also, the closing flap of claw shaped snails called, Onycha, was rubbed with an alkali solution to remove impurities; it was then soaked in the fermented berry juice of the Caper shrub, or a strong white wine, in order to enhance its fragrance. Galbanum, a rubbery resin, was added. Last, pure frankincense was tapped by slashing the bark of the Frankincense (Boswellia) tree found in Lebanon. The sap bleeds out from the tree as resin and is called “tears”. These trees are also considered unusual for their ability to grow in environments so unforgiving that the trees sometimes grow directly out of solid stone, which the tree attaches to by means of a sucker-like appendage. The deep roots and its sucker like appendage prevent the tree from being torn away from the stone during the violent storms that frequent this region; the “tears” from these hardy survivors are considered superior due to their more fragrant aroma.

Myrrh is identified with an aromatic gum exuded from the leaves of the cistus rose. Its oil was used in beauty treatments (Easter 2:12) and was sometimes mixed with wine and drunk to relieve pain. Jesus was actually offered this drink mix when he suffered on the cross (Mark 15:23), but did not partake of it. The most amazing thing about myrrh is that it was brought to Christ at his birth by the magi and his body was wrapped in linen strips scented with myrrh at his death.

The harden drops of myrrh are considered very rare and very valuable and so are we as children of God. Yes, they burned incense in the Tent of Meeting as directed by God, but now we have Jesus. He surrendered all in the garden of Gethsemane as his sweat was like “tears” of blood. He loved us so much that just as the Frankincense tree was slashed to retrieve the good resin, so also was our Lord flogged by Roman soldiers that through him we remove impurities of sin in our own lives and become good once again. Jesus enhances our fragrance as children of the light as we grow in our knowledge of him and allow his love and grace embrace our daily walk. We need to cling to Jesus as a “sucker-like appendage” growing from the Solid Rock and know we will prevail in unforgiving environments and violent storms. Having joy despite the trials will label us as “hardy survivors” and superior in the eyes of Christ with our fragrant aroma!


a corgi said...

interesting information about myrrh; I have thought if I lived at the time of Jesus, what would I have thought of him? would I have followed him or thought he was too radical? would I have listened to his stories or be worried that I was offending the Pharisees and risk getting kicked out of the synagogue? knowing him now, of course I would be right by him, but I just don't know if I lived during the time he walked this earth


Dina said...

Thank you for becoming a follower of my blog, which led me to yours. I've read several of your most recent posts. I'm enjoying your thought provoking writing and am encouraged by your faith.

Sam said...

In the crown of all God's good work, Jesus Christ is the centrepiece! A jewel superbly set, flawless in every way, of immeasurable caret and unsurpassed beauty. There is no one like our Lord, full of grace, mercy and truth. We would do well to sit as his feet like Mary and hang off his every word!