Wednesday, 8 December 2010

The First Christmas Present

We've just held our annual Open Day and in honour of the festive season, we produced little bags of "gold" (a gold chocolate coin), frankincense and myrrh. I wrote a short explanation for children - generally in my experience a lot more perceptive than most adults - of The First Christmas Present.

The First Christmas Present

The New Testament tells us that three kings guided by a bright star came to visit the new born baby Jesus in the stable where the story tells us he was born. Each King brought a gift: one brought gold, another frankincense and the third myrrh.

Gold represents Kingship and because the Kings with gifts were giving Jesus respect he became known as the King of Kings. Unlike other metals gold doesn’t rust so it also represents something that is eternal and doesn’t change.
The word perfume comes from the Latin per fumen, which means through smoke. This gives us a clue as to the earliest use of perfume – incense. In the ancient world people started making offerings to their gods. It had to be something valuable otherwise it wouldn’t be much of an offering would it?

Frankincense was very valuable and the little nugget in the bag is called a tear and a long time ago tears like this one were used as money. By putting frankincense tears on hot charcoal they would transform into smoke and slowly vanish leaving behind some of their smell. The ancients believed that it had vanished from this world and gone to another world, which they couldn’t see but where God lived.

For some grownups this started an argument which has gone on for centuries about the imminent and transcendent aspects of God in relation to transubstantiation symbolism. The important thing about the story, even if we can’t say such a long word let alone argue about it, is that frankincense was used to communicate with God so it represents spirituality.

Myrrh is quite an easy one. It was used for medicine and embalming and it is sometimes called bitter so it represents suffering. We can only wonder what the world would be like today if the three Kings had all brought the same present.

Elf and Safety Notice
Please keep the contents of this bag away from babies.