Every Christmas we have the chance to watch the re-enactment of the Nativity ongoing in schools and churches, and we often hear a special Christmas carol about three kings of the Orient. Indeed, many of us sing along joyously… but have we ever asked ourselves about the real implications of this story? Have we ever delved into the true meaning behind the words?
“We three Kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar…
Field and Fountain, Moor and Mountain -
Following yonder star…
Ooh, star of wonder, star of night.
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect light…”
And so, the book of Matthew tells us, there were three Kings from the East who were given a sign – a star of wonder, and with that sign came a revelation, a child was to be born the King of the Jews, and they were to pay him homage, to worship him.
Now, there are those who describe these three Kings as wise men or Magi… Others say they were Persian priests or astrologers. We are told their names were Gaspar, Melchior and Balthazar. We are not 100 % sure of some of this information. But we do indeed know that they came from the East… And due to the long journey we can assume they came from afar. They were not Israelites. We also know they brought gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. Assuming that these were obtained in their home environments historians have suggested they came from Arabia, Persia and India. We are told that they met with King Herod and told him of the child King they had come to honor, but upon realizing Herod was a danger to Jesus they set aside his request to be informed of the whereabouts of the child and quietly left the land by another route after their blessed meeting with Christ. To get the full story of the Magi read Matthew 2: 1-12.
For me, there are powerful lessons for us captured in the story of the Magi. Here are two of those lessons:
Lesson 1: IN THE GRAND SCHEME OF THINGS, WE ARE ALL INSIDERS.
The revelation to the Magi was made to what some would have viewed as outsiders. Therefore the Lord reaches out to us all, irrespective of race, tribe, religion, gender, age etc. We are all part of one humanity.
Lesson 2: WE CHOOSE WHETHER TO ACCEPT OR REJECT OUR HUMANITY.
While the Magi listened attentively and went out of their way to travel a distant and possibly perilous journey to meet this blessed child – on the other hand King Herod, whom some would have considered the insider, was going out of his way to find and destroy the child.
Again, irrespective of race, tribe, religion, gender etc we can make a decision to do right or do wrong, to accept or reject our humanity.
The sad truth is that should the story of the Magi occur in Kenya today, and the chiefs on one side of the country were given a message that a child was born, the King of Kings, it is very likely that this would be the uproar that ensues -
“Who is this King of Kings and why is he not chosen from our people?”
“We cannot bow down to a baby from another community!”
“What’s in it for me?”
“How much is the ‘facilitation’ fee?”
“There are historical injustices we need to sort out first!”
Yes… if this were to happen in Kenya, chances are it would not go well at all. We are so divided, and yet the stark truth is that a stranger could save your life and a brother could take it.
And so I ask, who were these amazing men who showed us the humility we need to move ahead?
Who were these great leaders who brought gifts and asked for nothing more than the chance to worship this baby, the King of the Jews?
Who were these men of wealth who traversed afar to bow down to a baby born in a humble manger?
Who were these leaders who put their own lives at risk by sidestepping the request of a King to save the life of a baby?
Yes… What incredible wisdom these Magi possessed!
They were truly men of greatness, good and honour!
And as I sit here today, thousands of years later, pondering upon the power of their story I have only one more question to ask… What can you and I take from the wisdom of the Magi, to make our world a far better place?