I’m Taylor and I’m Taylor, and I’m Daniel Smith. This is Book of Mormon Central Come, Follow Me Insights today, a special Christmas video. Today, we want to explore this question. What child is this? As you contemplate coming into the stable on that beautiful night when Mary gives birth to this. Son of God, who has come down to a dark world that is dominated by by sin and inequity and apostasy and struggles and pain and disease and death and and all of these issues.
Here’s the solution, what child is this? And today, as we as we talk about the miracle of Christ’s birth and the miracle of Christmas. We want you to contemplate deeply that question for yourself, what child is this? Now, it’s beautiful that in the New Testament we have Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, who are our gospel writers.
And they give us very different views of this birth event, for instance, Mark, he doesn’t give you anything from the birth.
He doesn’t answer the question, what child is this kid jumps you in in chapter one straight in the baptism of Jesus. So he completely skips the first 30 years of Christ’s life. John, he gives you the pre mortal answer to that question of what child is this, John? Chapter one begins with the divinity, the godly side of Jesus and who he was and how he had condescended. Here he is, a a little babe wrapped in swaddling clothes held by his mother.
And previous to this in John’s account, he was a god. Up in heaven, who created all things, who stood next to his father in the beginning and and had all of this godly power, and he gave all of that up momentarily to come down and become a part of a part of our world and to take upon himself flesh. And to become innocent and completely helpless as far as a little infant needing to rely on mom and others for everything to be done for them, that’s John’s account.
Now, you’ll notice the two who give you.
Any detail about the actual physical birth experience and the events shortly thereafter, within two years, our Matthew and Luke, it’s beautiful to see Luke’s perspective because he focuses on the margins of society, the outcasts, the people who are often easily overlooked.
So if you if you examine Luke, chapter one, for instance, he begins his story with Zacharias and Elizabeth to people who it would be very easy to overlook them. In their culture, in their society, here is this priest and his wife, who are now well advanced in years and they’ve never been able to have any children. Luke focuses in on their story with Zacharias going into the temple and as he goes into it’s his it’s his job, he was appointed to burn incense on the altar of incense every day during during that cycle for his family.
And as he’s going in, he sees an angel on the right hand side of the altar. Who then informs him in Luke Chapter one, fear not the sacrifice for thy prayer is heard, and my wife Elizabeth shall bear this on a national call. His name John. What is the possibility that when Zacharias is walking in that he is praying for a son that day or that his wife has been praying for a son that week? Probably not very high, but the beautiful aspect here is that God isn’t bound by the same time limits that we are.
So for the Angels, it’s Jesus Christ, if you’re not for thy prayer is heard. Could be and is most likely referring to a prayer that has been offered in the past for 30 years running and never seem to get answered. But now it does after it seems like it’s impossible because what you get in Luke Chapter one is the introduction of two impossible births, one to a woman who is too old to pass the childbearing years. It’s impossible. And yet she’s going to bring forth the son and then the other on the opposite end.
She’s not married. She’s never known a man before, but she’s going to bring forth a son to impossible births. And you’ll notice one of the key phrases from Luke, chapter one, verse thirty seven. For With God, nothing shall be impossible. I love that as long as he introduces these these two impossible bursts to us, so there’s the first one, John. Six months later, verse twenty six tells you that Gabriel was sent from God to the city of Galilee named Nazareth.
So he goes into this city, goes to Mary is this handmaid of the Lord, and he comes into her and has a very interesting conversation with this handmaid. And he tells her that she has found great favor with God and because she has found such great favor with him, she’s going to conceive and bear a son. Now, you have to put this back into its first century Jewish context in Galilee, in a small village, Nazareth, where an estimated population is somewhere around three hundred people, where everybody knows everyone and they have very strict laws of propriety, especially surrounding marriage and and sexual relations and childbearing and family kinds of things.
Here’s his handmaid, who is betrothed to Joseph. And she’s now being told you’re going to conceive in your room and bear a son. Can you imagine the questions she asks the angel questions like, how can this be? I’ve not known a man and the angel tells her that the Holy Ghost shall come upon the inverse three five in the power of the highest shall overshadow the. And you’re going to bear the son of God now. We we understand this story from looking back in time at these events unfolding.
Mary didn’t have that advantage. She’s living this story, it’s unfolding in front of her. Can you imagine what that might feel like for her to go home and talk to her mom and dad? And say, guess what, I’m I’m going to have a baby and it’s not going to be Josef’s and I’m not married to another man. There was no possible way for her to make this sound OK in their culture, in their society, in the way they saw things.
You’ll notice what Mary did at that moment, she left, Galilea went down to the hill country of Judea because the angel told her, by the way, your relative Elizabeth, in her old age, she has conceived and she’s going to bring forth the son. So Mary goes down to be with her. Probably a safer place to be in those first few months of her pregnancy as she works through what’s going on. The interesting story unfolds when Mary arrives at Elizabeth’s house, look closely at these events.
Verse 40, she entered into the house of Zacharias and saluted Elizabeth, and it came to pass that when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary. The babe leaped in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost. Keep in mind, Elizabeth, this is probably a little bit over six months along in her pregnancy.
Mary is newly conceived with with the pregnancy with baby Jesus. She walks through the door and this six months old John inside of Elizabeth leaped in the womb. You’ll notice what was John’s calling, what is his mission in life, it’s to be a forerunner. It’s to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s to tell people, get ready. He’s coming right behind me, make his path straight, repent, get everything ready, because the son of God is coming.
I find it interesting that. The baby, John, bares his very first testimony while still in the womb, and he bears that testimony in the only way he can, not with words. But with the physical leaping in the womb. And that testimony is delivered to an audience of one. His dear mother, his aging mother. Is one of the first people on this planet to have a witness from her son. Proved by the Holy Ghost in her heart that the son of God is coming.
Notice her words, verse 42, she spoke out with a loud voice and said, blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of the womb. And whence is this to me that the mother of my lord should come to me? The message was received. The Holy Ghost interpreted that leap for her from her, from her son, and helped her recognize who was in her house at that moment. Now, this becomes doubly interesting when you look at it from the context of the first century Jewish world where women were not allowed to testify in a court of law, they weren’t seen as valid witnesses back in this day.
And yet, who are our first two witnesses that we have record of in Luke’s account of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ? It’s Mary. And it’s Elizabeth, these two women stand here at the entry point of Christ coming into the world, standing there as witnesses saying he is the son of God. And John bore that witness to to his mother to add her to the list. Now. If you then go over to Chapter two, you get the actual birth story of Jesus coming forth.
This is the most famous birth narrative is Luke, to where keep in mind, we’re focusing on the outcasts or the people who are easy to overlook from Luke’s perspective.
And it’s not exclusive. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t talk about famous and rich and people who are in the center of society. He does that as well, but he includes everybody that he can in his narrative. And it’s beautiful. So you get these two women here and you’ll notice he then also tells you the story of the shepherd’s. A group that is a lowly class of servants, but God cares about them and he invites them to be the witnesses of this person.
So we’re going to get their story here. And then later on, we’ll come to Matthew, where he focuses, because his audience seems to be more men, Jewish men, probably some Gentiles mixed in as well. But he’s focusing on things the men would find the most compelling to prove that Jesus is the Christ. He’s going to use a lot of Old Testament Hebrew scripture passages to say it’s fulfilled.
And so we’re going to see that later on. But his focus is more on these Jewish aspects and the Old Testament aspects, things that the men of the day would have have taken very seriously, because he seems to be showing them that Jesus is the Christ, whereas Luke’s message might be a little more balanced. Isn’t it beautiful that we have all of these that we can put together and not say we’re only going to take one? I love being able to put the whole piece of the puzzle, all of the pieces of the puzzle together.
OK, so let’s go into Chapter two where the actual event takes place. You’ll notice in verse one came to pass that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. Now we know that this isn’t necessarily a taxi. It’s more of a census that the Caesar Augustus is making. It’s clearly aimed at eventually being able to get money appropriately from from all of the people that are in his kingdom, in the empire. But it begins with a census.
And so look at verse three. All went to be taxed every one to his own city. You have to go to your city, to your hometown, where you own property and where your relatives are and where everything can be corroborated that this is who it is and everything can be accurate. Problem is, Joseph, to whom he Mary is Botros. He’s up in Nazareth, which is about 80 miles north of his hometown, Bethlehem, the city of David, which is about five miles south of Jerusalem.
So if you look at the Holy Land, you have Jerusalem down here, you have Nazareth up here. It’s about 80 miles down to Bethlehem, which is just south of Jerusalem. It’s not convenient to get there. Now, by the way, we should throw this in here, the back in Matthew, chapter one, Joseph had already decided. To put away Mary privily or privately, secretly. When he found out that she was with child. He could have had every right to take her out in front of the whole group there in Nazareth and publicly denounce her and say she’s with child and it would clear his name.
But it’s there in chapter one of Matthew, where the angel comes to him and says, don’t put her away, because that which is is born of her is of God. And Joseph, you need to adopt him as your own. Which is so interesting because here’s Joseph coming down to Bethlehem, the city of David, and he was told, you need to adopt this baby boy so that he’s yours and he takes on your lineage. If you look back at Matthew, chapter one, the way Matthew trying to convince predominantly, it seems Jewish men that Jesus is the Christ, you’ll notice how he starts.
He starts with giving you a list of 14 names from from Abraham down to David and then from David down to the exile and then from the exile down to Mary. But you’ll notice what he’s doing here. We’re covering hundreds of years, but Matthew only focuses in on 14 generations in each. Now, some of you are thinking, why do I care what difference? He’s skipping all kinds of generations. And by the way, somebody messed up somewhere along the way because one of these fourteens ends up as only 13 and they’ve got dropped somewhere that he intended for it to be 14.
And he tells you that in in Matthew Chapter one when when he’s finished with the genealogies. Here’s the neat thing. That no means very little to those of us today who speak English or German or French or Spanish or Portuguese or any of the languages of today.
But to an ancient Hebrew people, that number means a great deal because they have this interesting little thing that they do where they take the letters of the Hebrew alphabet and assign a number to them. So the first letter, Aleph is one, Beit is two on down the line. Well, everybody’s name can be assigned one number if you add up all the numbers of the letters in your name, the consonants. So what happens here? Matthew’s convincing everybody that Jesus is the Christ, the son of David.
Why, because Dalhart in the Hebrew is the fourth letter, VOV is the sixth letter. His name is Dalhart Valve Vaudevillians, David. So what you have is you add four plus six plus four, you get 14. It happens three times. What Matthew’s doing is he’s giving you a superlative. This is the son of David. This is the son of David. This is the son of David. In answer to the question, what child is this, Matthew would come with a resounding answer.
He’s the superlative son of David. He deserves David’s throne. He is the ultimate king of the Jews. Why is this a big deal, because for about a nine hundred year period, Jewish people have been looking forward to a time when all the prophecies in the Old Testament would be fulfilled, that God would restore the kingdom to David’s family, that the throne would be reestablished, and the son of David would reign as the ultimate king of kings. And Mathew’s trying to show us that’s exactly what’s happening here.
So, Joseph, because you’ll notice you get Joseph’s story in Matthew. You get Mary side of the story and Luke, beautiful, you get to put them together. So Joseph has now taken Mary to be his wife. Even though the baby that she bears in her womb is not his. He’s been commanded by an angel in a dream to take that baby and adopt him as his own. And not only that, he’s told what to name him.
Look over here at verse twenty one in Matthew one. Verse twenty one. She shall bring forth the sun and thou shalt call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins. Brothers and sisters, this is this is significant because for us, the name Jesus means something today because it embodies this this being that we worship. But you have to understand, they don’t speak English. This is an English name. This is a translation for us to be able to to refer to him.
The name that he would have been given in Matthew, chapter one to Joseph was Yeshua or the longer version Yehoshua Yeshua comes from this root.
Yay, or Jehova, it’s the root of Jehova and the second part of the name. Implies will save save his people, Jehova saves, Jehova will save his people. That’s his name. So Joseph is told in this dream you’ve got to name him Yeshua because he’s going to save his people. Jehovah saves means a great deal to them in their context. That name doesn’t mean much to us, but Matthews focused on trying to help Jewish people see. This is the Christ, this is the promised messiah, in fact.
This is the way Jehovah is going to save his people is by becoming one of them. By descending into the valley of the shadow of death, by descending into the grave and by descending into hell, he’s going to burst the bounds of both. That’s how he’s going to save his people ultimately is what’s going to happen here at the very end of of these gospel accounts that focus on his atonement. So with all of that as backdrop as setting, you can now picture that long journey that Joseph and Mary make from Nazareth down to Bethlehem, where we come back now to Luke, chapter two.
Are you seeing how you have to fit these two stories together in kind of unique ways? So you come in to Bethlehem. With Mary, look at what it says in Luke chapter to start in verse five, they want to be taxed with Mary, his espoused wife being great with child POSIX. And so it was that while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her first born son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger.
Because there was no room for them in the end, now, I just want to emphasize a couple of things here. If you look at chapter two, verse seven, you could circle the words for them. There was no room for them, could be more than just a no vacancy sign on all of the motel windows that night. Bethlehem is not a large metropolis metropolis, it’s a small town. The city of David is is the least of the cities of Judea.
It’s very small. There wouldn’t have been lots of motels or inns in that in the way we use the word in. In fact, if you look at the record underlying in here. It’s a totally different word than later on, say, in the parable of the Good Samaritan and Luke Chapter 10, where the Good Samaritan takes the man to an end, it’s a different Greek word, but in English, two different records got translated into the same English word.
And we were left thinking, oh, yeah, it’s it’s like a motel. And it’s not in this context. The Greek word here is Tolima, and it’s only ever used a couple of other times later on when it refers to the Last Supper, where Jesus has his last supper, where he introduces the sacrament to his apostles in an upper room. It’s what a kid told me is it’s it’s simply an upper room. But they could have translated it there as in and they could have translated Catalona here as upper room.
There was no room for them in the upper room. It’s the same Greek word. You see the struggle that we get into with with Greek translation. Here’s the reality. What’s pieced together what we know and connect the dots? Joseph is from Bethlehem, this is where his family’s from. This is where he was born. This is this is these are his people. We know that Mary is a fairly close relative to Joseph, so probably her extended family, many of them live there as well.
Mary is coming in with Joseph and she is with child. And all of their family has been Nazareth’s as well, everyone knows that this child is not Joseph’s. Mary is so highly favored of God. She becomes despised and rejected of men. We would say a woman of sorrow and becomes well acquainted with grief. Because of her goodness, because she was so highly favored of God, there’s now no room for them in the inn and you’ll notice what Joseph Smith did, divert seven.
He put an S on the end of the word. There’s no room for them in the upper rooms. Homes in the first century would have these upper room areas that are just open where you could have a Passover Seder service like the Last Supper, where you could have guests stay. And Luca’s making it very clear there is no room for Mary and Joseph in any of the upper rooms in anybody’s home in Bethlehem. And many of these people are going to be family members, probably close family members to Joseph and possibly Mary as well, but there’s no room for them in any of these.
If we were to ask any of the the women in the audience, what would you do? If one of your relatives, if it was your sister or your sister in law or a cousin came into town and she’s ready to give birth soon, and you’ve if you did already have a house full of guests, what would most of you do?
Most of you would kick out guests, or better yet, many of you women would probably give your own room to this woman so that she could give birth to her to her child in a in a safe, comfortable as possible environment. But not Mary and Joseph. There is no room for them in anybody’s Tahmima, in anybody’s house even so, where do they go? They go to a stable. They go to a cave where animals are housed and often when we depict these in our nativity pageants.
It’s clean, hey, it’s well groomed animals, it’s nice like we keep everybody warm and happy and clean. The reality is this would not have been an environment that anybody would want to go to give birth. Do any of you find this ironic that the creator of worlds without no under the direction of his father now is come down to take upon him flesh, to take upon him the mortal, the human, the the conditions that you and I face?
And he’s he’s here as the solution. This is the good news, the glad tidings of great joy. This is the gospel message as God has come down to save us and we need him desperately. There’s no way we can fix any of these problems on our own. We need him and he is our solution. And how do we welcome him to our world to fix all of our problems, to to save all of us? We welcome him by rejecting his mother and stepfather and send them to a stable.
And it’s there in that. Less than desirable environment where he makes his entrance into this world. Welcome to our world, not a lot of hospitality in this this opening phase, and now Mary wraps in swaddling clothes and lays him in a manger because there was no room for them in the men’s. Then he sends the angel to the shepherds to come and witness this event to the outcasts, another group of outcasts in their society. So these shepherds enunciator, abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night, lo the angel Lord came upon them in the glory of the Lord, shone round about them, and they were so afraid.
Now notice what the angel’s words are, fearnot for. Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. Did you catch that? Something so still so quiet, so small, so imperceptible that most of the world slept through this. They had no clue what was happening. It’s for all people. But it begins really small and we’re going to get these shepherds coming in notice first 11 for Unto You is born this day in the city of David, a savior, which is Christ the Lord.
Did you notice that unto you is born this day? You could take the word you and circle it if you want and write in the margin your own name. Me too. We’re all included. He was born that day for all of us, so then they go in and they are actually verse 12, he tells them you’re going to see the sign of the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a major. And suddenly there was with the angel, a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, glory to God in the highest on earth.
Peace. Goodwill toward men. I don’t know where I was that night, but I hope I was part of the heavenly host. Praising God and saying glory to God in the highest. Now here’s the point, whether or not I was part of that heavenly choir or heavenly course is far less important. Two thousand years ago. Because I have no control over that, but I do have control over being part of a heavenly course on the Earth. Who is saying the exact same thing to the world today, glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace, goodwill toward men.
We can we can do what that multitude of heavenly hosts did on that on that night two thousand years ago. We can live our lives in this way that they become a reflection of that message to all around us. Then they go and they see the baby in the manger. They see the mother. And can you imagine that moment of them looking at that little baby? What child is this? And by the way, if you if you can cast your mind back to the last time that you held a brand new baby, a little infant.
Can you picture holding this particular infant in your in your mind’s eye? Picture looking at that little face picture, looking at that brow is a little teeny tiny hands, those hands that are going to grow up and calm seas and raise the debt and cast out devils and heal leprosy and blindness and lameness and deafness and all these other things, those little hands that that are going to do nothing but multiply and lift and build and help people that are then going to be perished one day on the cross, that tiny brow that’s going to wear a crown of thorns.
That’ll happen about thirty three years down the road. But for now, we get to enjoy this moment with the Christ child. Now, Luke’s account is going to take you from there to then the the circumcision date and the presentation in the temple at day 40, and you’re going to get the experience when Jesus is the 12 year old in the temple. That’s Luke’s account. He’s telling different parts of the story. We now come over to Matthew, chapter two, because what happens a lot is we we take Luke to and we put it side by side and right over top of with Matthew to the problem is Matthew two is going to happen probably a year, a year and a half, up to two years later.
Where we get these these wise men coming into the story, which would be something of great interest to Matthew’s particular audience that he’s writing to and the the unique way that he’s bearing testimony of who Jesus is. So we bring the wise men in from the east. Look at verse chapter two. Verse one. Now, when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the King, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem and they’re saying, where’s he?
Who’s born king of the Jews? Now, just as a side note, if you’re Herod, you’re sitting on your throne symbolically. And here come these wise men from the east and they say, where is he? The king of the Jews? Your thought is. Did you miss it, you’re looking at it. I’m the king of the Jews, so you get this incredible contrast between Herod and the wisemen. Look at verse three, look at his response when Herod the King had heard these things, he was troubled in all Jerusalem with him.
And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. Notice this. Notice that Herrod. Is not willing to do any work, he’s not willing to even open scriptures and study them himself. He’s troubled by the saying of the Weizman and then notice the verb here, he demanded of his priests and scribes to tell him where Christ should be born. The way he seeks Jesus is to demand that other people do all the work.
So they tell him, well, for six thou, Bethlehem in the land of Judah art not the least among the princes of Judah. Four out of these shall come a governor that shall rule my people. So you get this great prophecy from Micah Chapter five that they say, well, we found this in the Old Testament writings, which they’re not calling the Old Testament. This is out of the Prophet’s writings for them. Verse seven, then Herod, when he had previously called the wise in quiet of them diligently what time the star appeared.
He didn’t even know there had been a new star.
He’s got everything he needs, he thinks he hasn’t been looking to the heavens, he didn’t know there was a new star. So when did this appear? How did you know? So he sends them to Bethlehem and says, go in, search diligently for the young child is not an infinite infant. They’re not in the stable anymore. Joseph is a tech tone in the group. He’s a carpenter. He’s a builder. He’s a he’s. He builds things, he’s he works in construction, so over this year, year and a half, we assume he’s probably had enough time to now build a house or they’ve figured out a way to to find shelter that’s not in the stable.
Notice what it says. When they had heard the king, they departed and the star, which they saw in the east, went before them till it came and stood over where the young child was. Now, verse 11, when they were coming into the house. They saw the young child with Mary, his mother, and they did fall down and worship him, and when they opened their treasures, they presented him gifts that we’re going to talk about here in a minute.
Brothers and sisters, I want you to stop and analyze for a minute the contrast between Herod and the wise men. How did he seek Jesus, he did it by sitting back and demanding other people do all the work, even even when he knew it was in Bethlehem, he didn’t even take the effort to go the five miles down to Bethlehem to try to find him himself. He sent the wisemen privily. You go find him. And when you paid him homage, you come back and let me know where he is so I can go and give him gifts as well.
He’s not even willing to do that much work to find Jesus, what did the wisemen and you’ll notice. They are wise. What did they do to seek Jesus, what were they willing to sacrifice, what were they willing to give up? They’ve apparently spent a lot of time poring over the scriptures to even know what signs to look for so that when they appeared, they could then act. Now they put their their life on hold for probably a good number of months, if not years, to be able to make the journey to Jerusalem or to Bethlehem and back.
They are willing to sacrifice everything they’ve got in order to come and see the Christ child, and it’s beautifully symbolized and what they actually give him, they give him three gifts. That’s why most people in their in their mind’s eye, the picture, three wise men, it’s because we have three gifts, but we’re not limited to that. It could have been two wise men. It could have been 20 wise men. We don’t know. We just know it’s plural wise men who came from the east.
Now, Daniel is going to take some time walking us through those three gifts, what they are and what they might symbolically represent, not just back then, but also for us today as we seek this Jesus.
So we have these three gifts. And the thing that I love about them is they all connect back to the temple and also back to being a king. The first gift is gold and gold. I have a couple of replicas here that I want to show you. This is the crown of the high priest or a replica of the Crown High Priest. And the high priest would wear this golden crown and it says Holiness to the Lord on the front, which is actually where the phrase that we use today on the temples comes from.
Is this right here? There also would be the clothing of the high priest would have gold all throughout it in different parts. This is just one example. We have the breastplate and the breastplate is gold settings that also even has gold thread throughout it. And then even the tabernacle and the temple itself would have gold all throughout it. The walls would be painted with gold, the furniture would be made of gold, and you’d have gold all throughout, even in the floor and things like that for the Solomon’s Temple.
And so this aspect that gold not only relates to the temple, but obviously also a king would wear a crown of gold. And so Christ is the great high priest. He is the king of kings, and he also is a prophet, which we’ll talk about in just a second. So that would be the gift of gold. And another lot of scholars also say that gold could represent divinity. So you have wealth, divinity, power, kingship, all these different things that relate to the gifts of gold.
And then you have the next gift, which would be frankincense. And I have some frankincense here. If you’ve ever seen frankincense, you might wonder what it is. It’s actually tree sap. And you can see some of these actually look like a little drop of sap or large drop of sap. Interestingly enough, this is actually from Oman and it’s from the area of Bountiful where Nephi built his boat. So that’s an interesting connection. Now, the interesting thing for me about frankincense is there’s several things, but how is it produced?
So if you have a tree, if you’ve ever seen a tree, you might see a couple of small drops of sap that come out. And in essence, the sap is coming out of places where there are wounds. That’s where you have it. So if you break off a piece of sap, it’s almost it’s almost like the blood where the blood is coming out to heal the wound. And so the way that you if you want to produce large quantities of sap, you actually have to cut or whip or bruise the tree.
So I want you to think about the symbolism here. So what is frankincense even used for frankincense? One of the key things, at least for temple worship, would be that it would be burned on the altar of incense. So when Zacharias is going into the temple and he sees the angel Gabriel, he is burning frankincense or a combination of other instances on the altar of incense and the altar of incense, where he, in essence, is right before the presence of the Lord, praying before the veil.
And he is asking for the Lord’s blessings for all the people he is representing, all the people praying to God. Now, think about it in the connection that, again, we talked about, the wounding, the tree, and one of the titles of Jesus Christ is the Tree of Life. And so thinking about this, that the tree is wounded and you can think about the whip that was used. This is a replica of what it might have looked like.
We don’t know for sure as Christ was bruised and torn for our iniquities, that he bled out. And from that suffering came the gift or the possible connection of symbolism of frankincense or the ability to be able to pray to the Lord. To be able to receive answers to our prayers. And think about it from the symbol that it is only because of Jesus Christ and his sacrifice, that we can have our prayers answered. And just as Zacharias is going in there and praying to the Lord, it is only because of the suffering of Christ and his resurrection that our prayers are answered.
Then the third gift is murder. And I’ve got some more here as well. And it’s a lot darker in color, but it is also tree sap. So it’s a very similar look. But it is it is a much darker color. And it’s interesting, the smell for me, I find frankincense to be a much more pleasant smell, but the murderer is a little bit more I don’t know how to describe it. It’s a very unique smell to it.
But they would use myrrh. In a couple of different areas, one of the areas is they would actually add it to the anointing oil that was used in the temple. So when a priest would be become of age to become a priest and to actually officiate in the temple, they would take a special combination. And with the oil and there was some measure that they would add to it and they would pour this on the head and anoint him to be able to become a priest.
We’ve got here a horn of oil, which is often what they would use to hold the oil. Another thing that they would do is for burial, we actually know that in the Gospel of John, it mentions that murder was used as part of the burial process. So they would use it because you think about it today, when you have a body, you can involve or you can do lots of different things to be able to help mask the smell.
So when you have the family come and things like that, it doesn’t smell. But they didn’t have that anciently. So what did they have to do? Well, they would take myrrh and other instances and other items to be able to wrap the body. And so they would take the myrrh and they would wrap it within the bands and that would help to mask the smell as much as possible. Obviously not like today, but it would help to mask the smell in the burial process.
So you have all three of these gifts that relate to the atonement and mission of Jesus Christ, that he is the great high priest, is the king of kings. He is the prophet that is anointed or that anoints us. And then the connection to his life and ministry. That he is the tree of life, he was bruised for our iniquities and that from his suffering, we are able to go to the father, pray to the father, and have our prayers answered before him.
What if we could talk to the Litzman today? What do you think they might say? If you were to ask any one of them who were there on that day. Who brought forth these gifts that Daniel just presented to us and knelt down in front of that child and gave them to him. What do you think they would say if you asked them the question today, so what child was that? What was it worth the journey? Was it worth the sacrifice?
Was it worth all that time of studying and watching and looking in and then giving up everything and going and then giving these expensive gifts that are fit for kings and priests? Was it worth it? What child was that? If they were here today, I think they would. Probably say, oh, I wish I had a thousand lives to give. To repeat any small sacrifice I could give to the Lord. If we could ask Mary a question.
What child is this that you hold in your in your arms when he was first born? What did you feel? What did you sense? I think it’s fascinating that in Luke’s account, Luke probably got a lot of his information for that directly from Mary. My hunch is that what she told Luke was what he put in his record. He said Mary kept all these things in her heart. She didn’t become this open book going and telling everybody about her experience, because some things are probably too sacred to share or even talk about.
And I think Mary would just look at us with a knowing look and say, this child. Is my savior and my redeemer, he’s the son of God and he’s your savior and your redeemer, too. Can you imagine Mary? Giving birth symbolically and literally shedding blood in order to give life to the being who would one day shed his blood and give his life in order for her to gain eternal life as well as all of the rest of us.
What a unique place Mary Mary holds in this in this whole glorious. Glad tidings of great joy story. We could go through each of the characters who are involved, we could talk about what would Joseph say in answer to the question, what child is this? What about the shepherds? What about Herod? What about the extended family members? What about John, we could keep doing that, but we want to finish by asking this question, what child is this and what is what does he mean to you, the coming of the son of God into the flesh?
What does that mean for you today? Years ago, when we lived in Brigham City, our good bishop there, Ron Fransen. He said this on a couple of occasions, and I’ll never forget it as long as I live. And speaking of the birth of Christ, he said. That to him, it was interesting that. The glorified, resurrected, perfected and exalted image of Jesus Christ can at times feel a little bit overwhelming to some, especially those who are struggling with sin or with addiction or mental health or with children who are struggling with faith or whether they themselves who are struggling with faith.
That image can be a little bit intimidating at times for them. So Bishop Fransen said. That to him, it was a beautiful thing that once a year God invites all of us. To come into a stable and to Bandini at a manger and worship. Worship. A newborn king. Not many people can be intimidated by a little teeny newborn infant as you look into that face in your mind’s eye as you hold him. So this Christmas season. Amidst all of the struggles of the world and its all the trials and temptations and tribulations that you’re facing right now that you’ve faced in the past and that that are yet to come your way, brothers and sisters, we invite you to come and bend the knee at that manger and worship this newborn king.
In answer to the question, what child is this? I give you my answer. This this is Christ, the lord is the king, he’s the God of of creation under the direction of his father, it came down to save us. So as we come to the close of this year of studying The Book of Mormon and as we come to the close of this lesson celebrating the glorious birth of Jesus Christ. I wanted to finish with this one verse out of The Book of Mormon.
For behold, I send to you there be many things to come and behold, there is one thing which is of more importance than they all for behold. The time is not far distant that the Redeemer lives and commerce among his people. Brothers and sisters, we’ve shared a lot of things that we know with you this year from our mind and from our study, I want to close with what I know in my heart, with all of my heart, with all my soul.
I know that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God, that he came into the world to save you, not to condemn you. That he came to take upon him your pains, your sicknesses, your sorrows, your frustrations, your your questions, your doubts, all of it came down to walk this road of discipleship, this covenant path with you side by side. As we close out this year, we want to leave you with our testimony that he lives, he loves, and he’s there with you regardless of what you’re going through.
I say that with you in the name Jesus Christ.