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.
Let’s see what we can learn from the Bible about this familiar Christmas carol. Some translations of the Scriptures refer to these visitors as Wise Men, while others call them Magi. As such, they were not kings, but were well-educated men who served as advisors to kings of Persia (present-day Iran). Six centuries earlier, a Jewish captive named Daniel rose high in their ranks. He spoke of a future time in which God would overthrow the kingdoms of men and establish His own Kingdom on earth.
Down through the centuries, the prophecy of this future kingdom continued to be passed on to each new generation of Magi. Many a night would find them studying the stars and planets to look for clues when God was about to do this. Imagine the thrill when these particular astronomers saw movements in the heavens indicating a King was born in Israel. (The best explanation of what they saw is The Star of Bethlehem. You can watch it on YouTube. It lasts about an hour.)
Can you sense their excitement and anticipation of seeing this new King with their own eyes! Immediately, they began making preparations for the 4-6 month-journey from Persia to Israel. They had to hire people to protect them from bandits, others to take care of daily chores. In addition, they had to make sure they had enough food and money for the trip. Finally, preparations were complete and the day arrived to set out for the land of Israel with their entourage.
Arriving at Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, the Magi met the reigning king Herod (a bad man who secured his position with bribes and killed his own sons because he saw them as threats to his throne). Not knowing of his paranoia and brutality, they asked him where the new King had been born. Herod learned from priests of a prophecy indicating the Messiah’s birthplace was in Bethlehem, a short five miles away.
No longer a babe in a manger, the Magi found the child Jesus living in a house. Knowing they were in the presence of Divine Royalty, the Magi knelt before Jesus and worshiped Him. Then they presented Him with their gifts. Gold was worthy of a king. Frankincense acknowledged this Child was God in the flesh. Myrrh seemed out of place because it represented death. But when you put them all together, these three gifts painted an accurate picture of the Messiah. God had entered the human race to pay the penalty for our sins by His death, and He is worth more than gold.
In a dream, God instructed the Magi not to return to Herod because he intended to kill Jesus. Not to be thwarted, when the Magi didn’t return, Herod ordered all the baby boys in Bethlehem two years old and younger to be slaughtered. But God forewarned Joseph and Mary of this plan, instructing them to take Jesus and escape through the night.
I think the most important lesson we can learn from the Magi is one you’ve probably seen on bumper stickers: Wise Men Still Seek Him!