Did you know that people often think of God when they smell frankincense? That is because many Churches and synagogues used this fragrance in religious services.
When something is very rare, has useful benefits, and makes life more pleasant it is in demand. The gifts that the Wise Men presented Jesus were gifts fit for royalty, hard to get and very expensive. That is also what people used when they wanted to honor God. Temple utensils would be made of gold, frankincense was offered, and myrrh was also used.
We tend to remember smells and often relate them to memories. Think about Christmas…. how many smells remind you especially of this time? That is how frankincense and myrrh can combine to create a smell that reminded people of prayer and of God’s presence.
Smells can also make us feel better, even happier.
Because we can buy forms of myrrh and frankincense today, if you can, why not go to a health food store and experience the smell of each, yourself?
These were the gifts of the Wise Men. They had brought these costly presents from far lands in the East, and they were fit for offering to a King. Everyone is familiar with the yellow metal of gold which makes fine jewelry and many wedding rings, but in today’s world frankincense and myrrh are lesser known. What are they?
What is Frankincense?
It comes from a very small area of the world, located in Somalia, Oman and Yemen. Frankincense is the resin from a small tree, the Boswellia sacra, which is collected from sap which drips from nicks made in the bark. Dried into “rocks” the best, most expensive type is clear and silvery, but most of it is a brown color.
Frankincense smells fragrant and is added to perfumes and burnt as incense. It has many health properties, calming, and purifying.
What is Myrrh?
It also is a resin collected from a plant, and like Frankincense, it is healthful and has a fragrant aroma, used in perfumes and incense. It was also used in the holy incense of religious services.
Myrrh was part of the anointing oil for the Tabernacle, high priests and kings, in a recipe listed in the Book of the Law of Moses. This fragrance wasn’t meant to ever be used in daily purposes.
God Has A Sense Of Smell
2 Corinthians 2:14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. 15 For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; 16 to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life.
When we pray, it is said our prayers rise like incense before God in his throne room. “…Golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints (Revelation 5:8)” and Paul says we are like a fragrance of the person of Christ wherever we go.
For us, incense has a pleasing, most often calming effect. Fragrance has a tendency to draw us in towards its source. That is how God’s presence is described spiritually, and why I think he chose to include incense as a part of our worship experiences; so we would know the way he experiences our prayers and worship.
We also relate smells with certain places or seasons. As we are in the midst of Christmastime, most of us have favorite aromas that make us think of our holidays: cinnamon of baking and ginger of baking cookies, pine and fir tree, peppermint candy cane pungence, and the sweet combination of these wafting into the air of our homes.
You may have heard of people using a particular perfume as a “signature scent”, so that they become identified in the minds of those they meet with a certain mix of perfume. In the same way we might say we experience God’s special presence and the lift he gives to our spiritual senses. The joy of knowing he is in the room.
Try thisJust for fun, if you have some incense in your home, why not burn it today as part of the devotion time? Talk about the type of fragrance it gives, and how you feel about it. There are many incense compounds which include myrrh and some that have frankincense in them, if you can obtain them, you will have an idea of why the ancient world valued these plant resins.
We could talk about rituals and why these hold significance for us. We might also consider that many of the things of the spirit are scentless and tasteless to our physical senses, that God is present whether we have recognition of him or not. Might this be why music, fragrance, and visual symbols were woven into services to honor God? Was it a way to remind us of spiritual realities that we might not otherwise understand?
I like to think that God shares with us because he wants us to participate in his pleasure… just like we like to share good things and what we like with our friends and loved ones. It is more fun and it multiplies the enjoyment when sharing our delight.
We thank you that we are your beloved ones, and that we are identified with the Beloved of Heaven, Christ Jesus. We want the meditations of our hearts to be like a fresh and sweet odor for you, to give you delight. Help us to recognize who you plan for us to have a full experience of what is best in life… not our idea of luxury, but your idea of joyousness.
We thank you that we can breathe in the wonderful smells of Christmas, and be refreshed by scents. We thank you for the meaningful story of the coming of Christ to us, to the earth. It is so rich with attention to all that is important for us to understand about your love for us and your plans for our good.
Throughout today we want to recognize your presence in the room. We love you, Our Dear God, Amen.