Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

Christmas Words 15: Magi

“We three kings of orient are” is another Christmas song that combines a rich legend (like names: Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar) about the magi and some nice theology. Here it is.  

We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar
Field and fountain, moor and mountain
Following yonder star

O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to thy Perfect Light

Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain
Gold I bring to crown Him again
King forever, ceasing never
Over us all to rein

O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to Thy perfect light

Frankincense to offer have I
Incense owns a Deity nigh
Pray’r and praising, all men raising
Worship Him, God most high

O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to Thy perfect light

Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume
Breathes of life of gathering gloom
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying
Sealed in the stone-cold tomb

O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to Thy perfect light

Glorious now behold Him arise
King and God and Sacrifice
Alleluia, Alleluia
Earth to heav’n replies

O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to Thy perfect light.

So, what’s the point? Clearly — they are witnesses to Jesus as the Messiah.

Their witness, as “magi” (probably astrologers) who are notoriously pejorative in Jewish literature, contrasts with the witness of those who should have known better: Herod’s court. What to learn? God raises up witnesses from all over the place, and not always from folks we’d prefer.

Their witness reveals that the Messiah is not just Savior of his people (Israel; 1:21) but also king of the Jews who will rule also Gentiles. This is a rich theme in Matthew, once again climaxing with the commission to mission at the end (28:16-20).

Their witness emerges from a heart and mind that is sensitive to God’s leading — the star and the providential words of God to return home without going back to Herod.

Their witness is attended by worship and even extravagance — they offer to the king gifts fitting for a king.

We don’t know how many there were — three is just a guess and a tradition. What we know is that witness to Jesus.

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Dana Ames

posted December 18, 2009 at 1:37 pm

Here is one of the verses of a well known Orthodox prayer-poem. I love its imagery:
“Beholding the Godward-pointing Star, the Magi followed in its splendour;
and holding it as a lantern, they sought thereby the mighty King.
And as they approached the Unapproachable, they rejoiced and cried to him:

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posted December 18, 2009 at 3:09 pm

Star allways represnt brightness. same as how we looking our futuer.
Allmighty is our destination so the star is representing our future by birth of allmighty.

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Dave Leigh

posted December 18, 2009 at 3:32 pm

From T.S. Eliot’s Journey of the Magi
…were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.
I wonder if the Evangelists were to write the story today if they might not have described the Magi as akin to Tarot Card readers or some other occult group more familiar to us. They came seeking guidance from Israel’s political shepherds, only to have Herod consult Israel’s spiritual shepherds, who — as it turned out — knew exactly where to seek the one born King of the Jews. Yet none of these scholars went to greet their Messiah! Only Herod, preceded by occultists and night-shift workers, came to greet him with a sword.
The world has not changed much. Jesus is still a life and death matter. But may all who learn how to find him do so in peace and find his life, and the goodness of his life–though this means a kind of death to all we have known and been before.
Merry Christmas!

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