The Magi were mysterious travelers who followed a star for thousands of miles over a period of years to the place where Jesus lived. These men (there were undoubtedly more than three) brought expensive gifts as acknowledgment that the Christ child was a future king.
What made their gifts wise?
They were specifically selected for a special person.
While gold, frankincense and myrrh are pretty strange gifts for a child (Jesus was probably close to two years old when the Magi made their visit), they carried deep meaning as to his identity.
The gold was a gift for royalty. Jesus was indeed king: king of the Jews (Luke 23:3) who was destined to become king of all Kings (Rev. 17:14).
The frankincense was a type of aromatic perfume which a priest might use in temple sacrifices. Just as a priest would offer sacrifices to bring cleansing for worshipers, Jesus became the ultimate High Priest (Hebrews 9:11), offering himself as the once and for all perfect sacrifice which cleanses us from all sin.
The myrrh was perhaps the most unusual of these gifts: it was a spice used to anoint a body for burial. Yet, although it was this child’s destiny to become king of Kings, the path Jesus traveled was one of humiliation, crucifixion and death.
How about you? Do you personalize gifts? Does the recipient think, “Wow! This was selected especially for me!”?
They gave useful gifts.
I realize that these gifts do not sound practical, but we have good reason to believe that Joseph and Mary may have needed to use these valuable gifts for sustenance. Why? Because Herod, the maniacal king over the region, was so paranoid that his power was going to be usurped by this child that he issued a decree to kill all male children who were two years old and younger. Fortunately, Joseph, Mary and Jesus were able to escape to Egypt where they lived until Herod died. We don’t know how long that was, but I am sure they appreciated having their emergency fund with them.
How about you? Do you give gifts that can actually be used to bless the receiver, or do they tend to gather dust?
They gave their time.
We don’t know how long they were away from their respective homes, but it could have been several years. Time is a precious gift because it is in limited supply and because we all have the same amount of it.
How about you? Are you willing to volunteer your time to be of service to others?
They gave their lives.
No, the wise men were not martyrs, but they bowed down and worshiped the child. “Bowing down” symbolizes submission and obedience to a higher authority, so they were, in effect, committing their lives to this King.
How about you? There is only one King of the universe and his name is Jesus. He gave his life for you. Will you do the same for him?
It would be the wisest gift you ever gave.