Christ Mass Thoughts - An Odd, Beautiful Gift 

Adoración de los Reyes Magos by El Greco, 1568 (Museo SoumayaMexico City)
Merry Christ Mass, Fident Family. 

Part of me hopes you don’t read this on Friday, but regardless when or where (I see you, sneaking away from the kids for a little alone time on the phone) you’re reading this, I want to deviate entirely from finance and just share a Christmas thought this week. 

Christmas. Christ’s Mass. The Mass of Christ. The Celebration of the Eucharist of the Messiah. 

If you’re near Lancaster, I can’t encourage you enough to go visit the Stone Gables Estate Christmas light display. Not only is it the most stunning display of Christmas lights and decorations I’ve ever seen, it is rich in the historical origins of Christmas and Christmas traditions while simultaneously teaching an elementary storyline that kids can understand. 
We visited last week after the snowstorm, so everything was covered in snow - making it all the more magical and beautiful. And this week’s thought, along with a Wall St Journal Article (paywall), sent me into a rabbit hole of exploring the third gift brought to young Jesus by the Wise Men, or Magi. 

Note that the Bible doesn’t explicitly state there were three kings, or three wise men (early Church traditions peg the company between 3 and 12) - only that these men brought three gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Growing up, I didn’t think much about the gifts. And although I realized at some point that gold was a symbol of Jesus’ kingship and frankincense a symbol of him as a priest (it was an incense used in the Temple), I never thought much of what myrrh was. 

It was an embalming oil. A symbol of death. 

We’ve had four kids and have attended or bought gifts for countless baby showers - not a single time was embalming oil on the gift registry. It’s an odd gift. 

Aside from its economic value (which was probably pretty high and could have financed Mary and Joseph’s flight from Herod), the gift is highly symbolic. While the gold represents Jesus as King, the frankincense represents Jesus as Priest, the myrrh represents Jesus as our crucified Messiah. It foretells his death. 

Odd, yet beautiful. 

And this truth was hidden in plain sight - at least for me. In the epic Christmas Carol We Three Kings, the second verse talks about the gift pretty overtly:

Myrrh is mine, it's bitter perfume
Breaths a life of gathering gloom
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding dying
Sealed in the stone-cold tomb

So while we rightfully and joyfully celebrate the birth of Jesus today and this season, his birth is only one chapter in the Story. Whether the [most likely pagan] Magi fully realized there was something different about this birth - it would lead to a remarkable death - or they were simply offering medicinal and/or precious material for tribute after studying the stars, the rich symbolism remains. 

And from that one death, would bring many new Life. 

As we and our loved ones open gifts this year, let’s remember the reason we’re doing so. And maybe let’s even think about the powerful symbols of what the Original Three Gifts meant so many years ago. 

Merry Christ Mass, Fident Family. 

Interesting Resources

Yiddish Proverb (image via Visualize Value)
"Words should be weighted, not counted."

Jeremy (and the rest of the Walter clan)
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