The precious gifts of Myrrh and Mirth

(Metro Creative graphic)

During the festive season of Christmas and New Year, the old story is repeated—about the three very precious gifts which were bestowed on the holy newborn child over two thousand years ago. We understand the treasure of gold being very important along with the burning of incense as a holy ritual, but we might ask, what is the significance of myrrh? With its pain-numbing components, was myrrh really for the infant or was it for the mother? And, what made it so valuable?

Today, myrrh would fit in with other fragrant aromas of the season such as sweet spices of clove, cinnamon, all-spice, peppermint, and ginger wafting and teasing our senses. Whether used in a spa or a sick bay, who could doubt that a mist of myrrh with its tantalizing oriental essence, would pamper, even foster love and nourish one’s soul, in a new season?

It is conceivable that, in indulging both the haloed infant and his mother, by way of the magi’s soothing gifts, the humble pair on the birthing bed derived comfort from fragrant gifts permeating the scene. The swaddling cloth, perhaps musky from being tucked away in a pouch on the camel’s back, sparsely dabbed with the precious balm of peace and well-being could defuse the sensitive pair’s discomforts—in the probability of a fowl stench hanging over the lowly manger. A spiral of smoke from frankincense, the king of oils, promoted relaxation while flushing away stale barn odours. Symbolic oils, carefully extracted from tree sap or gum resin, were valued as highly as gold, if not more so, for thousands of years. Gifts with medicinal properties, considered by the wise a fine cure for ills and for use in exquisite spiritual rituals, evidenced good will.

In addressing mirth, a festive Christmas and New Year are filled, with the love-blessing symbol of mirth, in our gifts, carols, and Mistletoe celebrating life’s sacred and fun times… not unlike the recorded parental love and celebration of the holy birth long ago. These days, just a sprig of the parasitic growth, plucked from its nurturing host, brings people together fondly to embrace and smooch for the fun of it. It’s a delight to pucker up for a kiss under the fresh greenery with its tiny white berries.

Facing challenges of a new year, the magi’s gifts are worth pondering. How could we bring elements of myrrh and mirth to those in our circles of family and friends? In the spirit of traditions, shut-ins love receiving practical lotions spiked with essential oils to lather over their tired feet, or pungent but smooth liniments rich in healing powers to relieve ailing.

The thing is, human virtues expose one’s heart-strings that sing around the soft-as-gold centres of our being. Such virtues are contagious—like mirthful laughter! With joy, a catalyst over time, the tiniest nuggets of relationships are solidified. No one is untouched by a spirit of mirth in our loyalty to shed sour stigma and channel blessed hope.

~ Award winning author and poet Rita Joan Dozlaw resides in Kamloops, B.C.

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