The sign (Lk 2:12-2:12)

“This this will be

A sign

For you.

You will find

A child

Wrapped in

Bands

Of swaddling cloth,

Lying in a manger.”

 

καὶ τοῦτο ὑμῖν σημεῖον, εὑρήσετε βρέφος ἐσπαργανωμένον καὶ κείμενον ἐν φάτνῃ.

 

Luke said that the angel told the shepherds that there would be a sign for them (καὶ τοῦτο ὑμῖν σημεῖον) in order to find this baby child (εὑρήσετε βρέφος) that would be a Savior, Messiah, Christ, and Lord.  This baby child would be wrapped in bands of swaddling cloth (ἐσπαργανωμένον), lying in a manger (καὶ κείμενον ἐν φάτνῃ).  Instead of the sign of a star, as in Matthew, chapter 2:2, they were told about a place with a manger.  These shepherds did not bring any gifts with them, unlike the Magi with their gold, frankincense, and myrrh in Matthew, chapter 2:11.

Jesus was offered wine to drink (Mk 15:23-15:23)

“They offered Jesus

Wine,

Mixed with myrrh.

However,

He did not take it.”

 

καὶ ἐδίδουν αὐτῷ ἐσμυρνισμένον οἶνον· ὃς δὲ οὐκ ἔλαβεν.

 

This is almost word for word in Matthew, chapter 27:34, but Matthew had gall not myrrh mixed with the wine.  Luke, chapter 23, and John, chapter 19, did not have any mention of this offer to drink wine in order to dull the pain.  Mark said that that they offered Jesus some wine to drink (καὶ ἐδίδουν αὐτῷ…οἶνον).  This wine was mixed with myrrh (ἐσμυρνισμένον), not gall as in Matthew.  However, as in Matthew, Jesus would not take it or drink it (ὃς δὲ οὐκ ἔλαβεν).

 

Golgotha (Mt 27:33-27:34)

“They came to a place

Called Golgotha.

This means

Place of a skull.

They offered him

Wine to drink.

This wine was

Mixed with gall.

But when Jesus

Tasted it,

He would not drink it.”

 

Καὶ ἐλθόντες εἰς τόπον λεγόμενον Γολγοθᾶ, ὅ ἐστιν κρανίου τόπος λεγόμενος,

ἔδωκαν αὐτῷ πιεῖν οἶνον μετὰ χολῆς μεμιγμένον· καὶ γευσάμενος οὐκ ἠθέλησεν πιεῖν.

 

This is almost word for word in Mark, chapter 15:22-23, but Mark has myrrh not gall.  In Luke, chapter 23:33, the place was simple called the skull, while in John, chapter 19:17, it was also called Golgotha with the explanation.  Matthew said that they came to a place called Golgotha (Καὶ ἐλθόντες εἰς τόπον λεγόμενον Γολγοθᾶ) that means “Place of a skull (ὅ ἐστιν κρανίου τόπος λεγόμενος).”  There they offered him some wine to drink (ἔδωκαν αὐτῷ πιεῖν οἶνον) in order to dull the pain.  This wine was mixed with gall or bitter herbs (μετὰ χολῆς μεμιγμένον).  But when Jesus experienced this taste (καὶ γευσάμενος), he did not want to drink it (οὐκ ἠθέλησεν πιεῖν).  This Golgotha apparently is a transliteration of the Aramaic word for skull.  This place was near Jerusalem.  The exact location is not known, but the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is the traditional place for Calvary, based on the Latin translation of Golgotha, probably a little east of Jerusalem.

The Epiphany (Mt 2:11-2:11)

“The Magi

Knelt down.

They paid homage

To the child.

They worshiped him.

Then,

Opening their treasures,

They offered him gifts

Of gold,

Of frankincense,

Of myrrh.”

 

καὶ πεσόντες προσεκύνησαν αὐτῷ, καὶ ἀνοίξαντες τοὺς θησαυροὺς αὐτῶν προσήνεγκαν αὐτῷ δῶρα, χρυσὸν καὶ λίβανον καὶ σμύρναν

 

This is the classic scene of the Epiphany of Jesus, with the magi, the 3 kings, the wise men adoring and worshiping the new born infant Jesus.  The magi entered the house.  They knelt down and worshipped the new child (πεσόντες προσεκύνησαν αὐτῷ).  Then they opened their treasures (ἀνοίξαντες τοὺς θησαυροὺς αὐτῶν).  They offered him gifts (προσήνεγκαν αὐτῷ δῶρα) of gold (χρυσὸν), frankincense (λίβανον), and myrrh (σμύρναν).  These were the same traditional gifts mentioned in Isaiah, chapter 60:6, gold and frankincense, an expensive spice.  Myrrh was a perfume.  So too, Epiphany, ἐπιφάνεια, means manifestation or appearance.  In classical Greek, it was a manifestation of a deity to a worshiper.  Thus, Jesus manifests himself to these worshipping magi.  The earliest references to the Christian feast of Epiphany come from the 4th century CE.  In the Latin-speaking Western Christianity, this holiday emphasized the visit of the magi, who represented the non-Jewish people of the world.  Thus, this child Jesus was considered a revelation to the gentiles.  In the middle ages, these biblical magi or magicians became the 3 kings, as a whole story developed around them.  Balthasar was the youngest one, bearing frankincense that symbolized the divinity of Jesus, representing Africa.  Caspar was middle-aged one bearing gold that symbolized the royalty of Jesus, representing Asia.  Melchior the oldest one, bearing myrrh symbolized the passion of Jesus, representing Europe.  For many years, and still in some non-English speaking countries today, Epiphany was and is a bigger feast day than Christmas, celebrating the birth of Jesus and his revelation to the world.

The beauty and aroma of wisdom (Sir 24:15-24:17)

“‘Like cassia,

Like camel’s thorn,

I gave forth perfume.

I spread my fragrance,

Like choice myrrh,

Like galbanum,

Like onycha,

Like stacte,

Like the odor of incense in the tabernacle.

Like a terebinth,

I spread out my branches.

My branches are glorious.

My branches are graceful.

Like the vine

I bud forth delights.

My blossoms become glorious fruit.

My blossoms become abundant fruit.”

Sirach continued with his personification of wisdom. Here wisdom compares herself to various fragrances and fruit trees. First, she uses the fragrances of cassia, a kind of cinnamon bark, and camel’s thorn, a sweet coffee smell. Then there are fragrances that came from the gum resins of trees that became the incense used in the Temple, myrrh, galbanum, onycha, and stacte. Thus wisdom smelt like the incense used in the Jerusalem Temple tabernacle. Just as the terebinth tree spread its branches, so too, wisdom seemed to have wide branches. She was also like vines and blossoms on a fruit tree. Wisdom was then beautiful to look at and wonderful to smell.

His response (Song 5:1-5:1)

Male lover

“I come to my garden.

My sister!

My bride!

I gather my myrrh

With my spice.

I eat my honeycomb

With my honey.

I drink my wine

With my milk.

Eat!

Friends!

Be drunk

With love.”

The male lover came to the garden of his bride. He gathered his myrrh and spice. He ate the honey in his honeycomb. He drank milk with wine. That does not sound good. He or someone else asked him and his friends to eat and be drunk with love. Surely this is a love poem.

She is like a watered spice garden (Song 4:12-4:15)

Male lover

“A garden locked is my sister.

My bride is

A garden locked.

My bride is

A fountain sealed.

Your channel is

An orchard of pomegranates

With all choicest fruits,

Henna with nard,

Nard with saffron,

Sweet grass with cinnamon,

With all trees of frankincense,

Myrrh,

Aloes,

With all chief spices.

She is a garden fountain.

She is a well of living water.

She is a flowing stream from Lebanon.”

His lover, sister, or bride is like a locked garden or a sealed fountain which were signs of fidelity. This metaphor of her waterway, canal, or channel helps the choicest fruits and spices to grow. She is life giving. These may not be your favorite fruits, but there are pomegranates, colored henna, and nard plants with the orange colored saffron. There is a sweet grass and cinnamon along with the classic frankincense, myrrh, and aloes. All the major chief spices were in this marvelous garden. This section ends with the concept of the female lover as a garden fountain of living water that flows from northern Lebanon.