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posted 5 Jan 2009, 14:59 by St Lawrence C of E Church   [ updated 9 Jan 2009, 14:23 ]
We all know that the wise men came from the East bearing gifts of "gold, and frankincense and myrrh" and we all know what gold is; but have you ever wondered what frankincense and myrrh actually are?


Frankincense is an aromatic resin obtained from the very scraggly but hardy Boswellia tree. It is tapped through scraping the bark and allowing the exuded resins to bleed out and harden. These trees are considered unusual for their ability to grow in environments so unforgiving, the trees sometimes seem to grow directly out of solid rock. The aroma from these 'tears' are valuable for their presumed healing abilities and are also said to have superior qualities for religious ritual.


Myrrh is a reddish-brown resinous material, the dried sap of the tree Commiphora myrrha.  The scent of raw myrrh resin and its essential oil is sharp, pleasant, somewhat bitter and resinous. The scent can be used in mixtures of incense as well as various perfumes, toothpastes, lotions, and other modern toiletries. In the Old Testament of the Holy Bible (and the Torah), myrrh is mentioned as a primary ingredient in the holy anointing oil God commanded Moses to make. Myrrh was highly valued in ancient times, and was often worth more than its weight in gold.
On a final note, the banner shows three wise men. It is not actually known how many wise men came to visit Jesus - we only know from Mathew 2:1 that: "Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem ...". However, Mathew 2:11 also makes mention of the three gifts: "... they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh" and from this it is commonly assumed that there may have been three wise men.