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
No Children’s musical at Christmas time is complete without three little boys wandering aimlessly around a stage with tilted crowns, no GPS, and all to the toon of “We Three Kings.”
As we read, depending on your translation, there were (wise men, dignitaries, astrologers, kings) from the east that made there way to Jerusalem after seeing the star of the Messiah (King of the Jews).
In the scriptures, the three kings were referred to also as Magi. The English word Magi is where we get the prefix for the word Magic. So by definition the Magi would be considered shaman, sorcerers, and even wizards.
So the question you have to ask yourself is, why would these three magician come to find Jesus? It was also believed that the reason these magi were able to follow the star was because they were astrologers. Although the Magi were dignitaries, the one thing they were not was kings. The reason they get the title “kings” is because in the Old Testament, specifically Isaiah 60 and Psalm 72, the scripture says that gifts will be brought by kings. The other reason is that the magi were representatives of the King of Persia.
Truthfully however they were not kings at all, they were astrologers, priests, and most importantly magicians. Along with this misunderstanding came the misunderstanding concerning the gifts that were brought to Jesus.
The Three Gifts
What happened to these gifts is never mentioned in the scripture, but several traditions have developed. One story has the gold being stolen by the two thieves who were later crucified alongside Jesus. Another tale has it being entrusted too and then misappropriated by Judas. Some scholars believe the gifts of the Magi were divinely provided. “The gold paid the cost of the journey, the frankincense and myrrh, easily carried and fetching very high prices in Egypt, provided for their first needs there (Zondervan NIV Commentary).”
Either way, the overarching point of the story is that something happened with these Magi. Something spoke to them in such away that they knew this child was different.
John Chrysostom suggested that the gifts were fit to be given not just to a king but to God, and contrasted them with the Jews’ traditional offerings of sheep and calves, and accordingly Chrysostom asserts that the Magi worshiped Jesus as God.
Knowing this, theologian C.S. Mann believes that the gifts the Magi brought were tools that Magi would use as astrologer priests. Now this is where it starts to get cool. Mann is basically saying that the significance of the gifts was not focused on Jesus, but rather focused on the Magi. This means, symbolically, the (3) Magi were saying, we are giving over to the messiah everything that has defined us since we’ve been born. If this was the reason for the gifts, think about what they were communicating in this act. They were abandoning their practice by giving over the necessary tools of their trade.
Let’s just say by the symbol and significance of their gifts that the Magi were giving up their pagan worship. Let’s think for a moment that the Magi were willing to walk away from everything they’ve known, to worship the one true and holy king. Why would we think this is strange when this is exactly what we ask of people today? The challenge for us today is to give up everything to follow Jesus. I want to challenge you today to bring your “gold” your “frankincense,” and your “myrrh” to Jesus and worship Him as the one true and holy king.