By Cordell and Janice Vail

30 Nov 2003

Copyright 2003 by Cordell Vail, all rights reserved

A weekly email gospel message for the descendents of Ammon and Winona Vail

Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh

Every year as the Christmas season begins we have a tradition that we always follow. To help bring the spirit of the true Christmas into our hearts, we have a little gold chest that we always open and look at. We have attached a picture of it so you can see it. Of course the box is not real gold. We just painted it so it looks like it is. And the cloth inside is really not woven with strands of gold, it just looks like it is. But inside the box are some very special objects. There is a real gold ring, a bottle of real Frankincense and a real bottle of Myrrh.

As we look at these three objects we try to close our eyes and just even imagine the significance of them. In the days when Christ was born these were three of the most valuable things you could possess. They still are. That bottle of Frankincense for example cost us $75. That is about what? $2 a drop. Thank goodness our cars don't run on Frankincense.

We open the box and try in our minds to imaging three Kings in our time. Rulers of nations. There of the most important people on the earth bringing this little box to the Christ Child as the most valuable gift they could find to bring Him. We try to imagine those three kings traveling across the desert following the star. We open the bottles and smell the fragrance of these two precious oils. I then try to always read the story of the 4th Wise Man. If you have never read that story it makes one of the most wonderful Christmas stories you could ever share with you children. (see below)

Then as a part of the tradition, as we sit trying to visualize these three kings from the Orient coming with their gifts, we ask ourselves, "What gift are we giving to Christ this year"? This is his birthday. It is his birth we are celebrating. We hear so often people telling others what they hope they will "GET" for Christmas. We like to sit and ask ourselves what we are going to "GIVE" for Christmas. What gift could we give to Him this year that would be a valuable to Him as these three in our little gold chest?

Help someone in need? Set the goal to find one family that we could share the gospel with this year? Start going to the temple every week? Do Genealogy every week so our ancestors could have the great gift of going to the Spirit Paradise now? Find a weakness in our life and overcome it? What gift could we give to Him that would make Him feel joy?

That is how we like to start my Christmas season.

We send our love and our blessing to each of you in this most wonderful time of year. May your heart be filled with the greatest of all gifts, the gift of Charity. And my you retain that gift all through out the coming year by acts of service and kindness to others.


Here is a very short version of the story of the 4th Wise man:

We know that there were three wise men. Their names were: Belthasar, Melchour and Casper. What most of us do not know is that there were actually four wise men who planned the event. The fourth man's name was Artaban. Ancient books and monographs like Barclays' commentary have documented the story of Artaban. The four saw the star and prepared to investigate what caused the star to appear. It was a long journey. So, they agreed on a time and place to get together to start their journey as they needed some preparations like acquiring gifts, etc. On the scheduled date of departure, the three wise men met and waited for the fourth one to appear. Bur he didn't come. After waiting for quite some time, the three decided to start the journey without the fourth man. There was no way for them to know what happened to Artaban. We know the story of the three wise men. They were guided by the star. They went to Jerusalem and visited King Herod. From there, they went to Bethlehem and saw baby Jesus and His mother (Mathew 2:11). They returned to the Orient in another way as directed by an angel in a dream. Unfortunately, their visit to Herod's palace had alerted the king on the possibility that a child, which could be a future king, was born and, if allowed to grow, could pose problem for the king. Herod, decided to kill all children born within the period of time (2 years and under), as a result.

It is interesting to find out what kept Artaban from joining his friends for the journey. Artaban, acquired three valuable gem stones to give as a gift to the child. He was on the way to meet his friends, when he saw a person lying on the road, nearly bleeding to death. It appeared that this person was attacked by bandits and they have left him dying on the road after robbing everything he had. Artaban knew that he can not leave this man dying there on the road. He also knew that if he does not proceed right away he will miss the trip he had planned with his friends. He decided to help the man in need. He carried him to his mule, took him to an inn in the next town. There he got a room for him and nursed him back to health. A couple of weeks passed in the process. In order to meet the expenses in the inn and the nursing care, Artaban had to sell one of the jewels he had in his possession - a stone that was meant to be a gift to Jesus.

By the time this was over, Artaban knew that his friends were already on their way. So, he went separately to Bethlehem. He arrived Bethlehem on a day when King Herod's army was killing all children. Jesus was already in Egypt at that time. Artaban went to a house and was greeted by a very sad sight. A woman was crying. He asked her why she is crying. She told him that she will lose her only son to the sword of Herod's men and there is nothing she can do to prevent this tragedy from happening. While talking to her, Artaban saw the approaching killers. They carried swords that were covered with blood. Artaban went to the gate and gave the leader of the gang one of his two remaining gemstones. Since the gemstone was very valuable, the leader spared the life of the woman's son and went on their way to the next house.

Now Artban was left with only one gemstone. He went to Egypt; but, by that time Jesus was already gone from there. In those days, travel took many months to complete. When Artban returned to Jerusalem, that was the day of judgement of Jesus. Jesus was already on the way to the cross. Artaban wanted to see Jesus. On the way to seeing him, he was met by a small girl, running towards him, crying. Artaban asked the girl, "Why are you running? What happened?" The girl said that she is running away from a group of men who were chasing her. Her father borrowed some money from them and could not pay back the debt. So, the men decided to capture the girl. While talking, the group of men appeared. Artaban gave them his last gemstone to clear the girl's father of his debt and to release the girl. This act saved the girl's life. So, now Artaban had no gems left.

Artaban and the girl started on their journey seeking Jesus. Suddenly, there was an earthquake and complete darkness. A brick from a nearby building came loose during the earthquake and hit Artaban on his head. He lost complete consciousness. He lied there on the lap of the girl who was crying over his injury. Suddenly, Jesus, was said to have appeared to Artaban. Artaban was very sorry that he didnot have any gift to give to Jesus. Jesus was said to have told Artaban that he had given him many gifts. (See the dialogue in Mathew 25:35-39.) He told Artaban, "I was hungry, you fed me. I was naked, you gave me cloth. I was dying and you nursed me back to health. I was going to be killed, and you have interceded on behalf of me and prevented me from getting killed, etc." Artaban told Jesus, "Lord, I have never seen you before. How can I have done all these things to you?" We know what Jesus told Artaban. When "when you have done it unto the least of these, you have done it unto me". Then Artaban died his heart filled with joy.

NOTE: Nothing in any of these Sunday Sermons is intended to represent the official doctrines of the Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They are strictly instructions and teachings from Cordell and Janice Vail to their family.

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