“The Songs of Christmas”
(We Three Kings)
Matthew 2:1, 2
- The lyrics verse one of the song “We Three Kings” are as follows…
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 light, star with royal beauty bright,
westward leading, still proceeding, guide us to thy perfect light.
The author and composer, John Henry Hopkins, Jr. (1820-1891), was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He received his education at the University of Vermont and at General Theological Seminary in New York City, graduating in 1850.
Hopkins wrote the carol around 1857, based on the narrative of the journey of the magi in Matthew 2:1-12.
- It was first published in the author’s Carols, Hymns, and Songs (1863).
- United Methodist Hymnal editor Carlton R. Young makes an interesting observation: “Because the wealth of USA Appalachian and other folk carols was yet to be discovered, this carol for almost a century was regarded by hymnal editors as the sole USA contribution to the repertory (to find out, discovery) of English language carols.”
- I really do not wish to make light of a Christmas carol that was originally derived from Matthew’s account of the magi in the Bible. There are some truths in the song such as being from the orient, and traveling far, and bearing gifts, etc.
- I believe that like most Christians with good intentions such as composer John Henry Hopkins, Jr. are trying their best to bring us good music to aid the season’s atmosphere and stir up the Spirit of God and Christ in people.
- However, I wish to expose the truth of the story of these men who traveled to see “Jesus” the Only King for the children of God.
- Keep in mind my dear Christian friends that the world paints a different picture of our Christ and twist His character to fit their different agenda.
- To us the Gentiles, rejected by many Jews but accepted of God and His Christ, we celebrate the time when our Emanuel (God with us) was born.
I. We Three Kings of Orient Are
A) Who were they?
- Vincent, who has written some very helpful word studies, says in regard to this, “Many absurd traditions and guesses respecting these visitors to our Lord’s cradle have found their way into popular belief and into Christian art. They were said to be kings and three in number. They were said to be representatives of three families of Shem, Ham, and Japheth and, therefore, one of them is pictured as an Ethiopian. Their names are given as Caspar, Balthazar, and Melchior.” You’ve probably heard that. And their three skulls, amazingly enough, are said to have been found. Yes, they were found “in the twelfth century by Bishop Reinald of Cologne.” The bishop dug those up and knew right off they were skulls. It’s very clear. And their eyes were still in the sockets fixed toward Bethlehem. Today, believe it or not, friends, they are on exhibit in a priceless casket in a great cathedral in Europe. REALLY? Some people believe anything.
- The history of the world has showed us that there have been 4 great empires. 1) Babylonian Empire (East of Israel off the Arabian gulf) 2) The Medo-Persian Empire (that Daniel talks about, the Medes being very large and powerful people politically) 3) Greece, (The Greeks who were conquered by Alexander the Great) 4) The Roman Empire Here is what I (As do many historians of the east) believe of the Magi…
- They were members of an Eastern priestly group, descendant of a tribe of people originally associated with the Medes. The Medes are said to be traced back to the land of Ur of the Chaldees where Abraham was from.
- They were from the priestly line of the Medes (Not Israel, God’s people)
- They were skilled in Astrology and astronomy.
- The Babylonian Empire was influenced greatly by Israel.
- King Nebuchadnezzar (King of the Babylonian Empire) took Judah captive. In Jeremiah 39:3, 13 a man by the name of Nergal sharezer is mentioned, and he is the chief of the Magi in Nebuchadnezzar kingdom. Because of Daniel’s interpretation of dreams for Nebuchadnezzar (Which none of the Magi could interpret), the Magi were influenced by Daniel and elevated him in their Babylonian Empire.
- Daniel made these Babylonians aware of the Messiah’s coming.
- The Magi were a “priestly” tribe of people within a larger group of people called the Medes. This is much like the priestly tribe called the Levites, one of the twelve tribes of Israel. The Magi were not of God.
- During the reign of the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Greek, and Roman Empires, the Magi remained a strong prominent part of the orient (East). They have always appeared with tremendous political power throughout all the empires of the world.
- These Magi were respected by all kings, sought for wisdom by all kings, revered by all kings, depended upon by all kings for their wisdom.
- The Magi thought fire to be a Deity. It was an element in their worship. They had two altars where they served God and fire.
- The Magi were monotheistic (belief in One God, much like Unitarians)
- The Magi’s priesthood was like the Levitical one in that it was hereditary (Meaning you had to be born into the family line of Kings.)
- The Magi (Some not all) interpreted dreams.
- The Magi were “King makers.” In other words, when a person wanted to be king, or a country wished to have a king, they sought out the Magi and the Magi would choose a king for them out of their students. (It was like a seminary.)
- The Magi are repeatedly mentioned throughout the book of Daniel.
- According to Daniel 5:11, Daniel was made master of the Magi after interpreting King Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams. This was God’s redemptive plan to get Daniel in a position where the “King Makers” would come to know the history and prophecies of the O.T. concerning the Messiah to come.
- The Magi consisted of some men who believed in the God of Israel, some who were star worshipers, some who were Zoroastrians (Astrologists), some believers of Judaism, and some sorcerers.
- The Magi were so powerful that historians tell us that no Persian was ever able to become king except under two conditions: 1) He mastered the scientific and religious discipline of the Magi. 2) He had to be approved of and crowned by the Magi.
B) God’s Devine Plan
- All this about the Magi shows us that about 600 years before Christ is born in Daniel 5:11, God is setting in motion a plan to have Daniel (God’s man) to set up the “King makers” to visit the King of kings.
- These so called “wise men” were not that wise but came to see One (Jesus) that is wise.
- The song writer of “We Three Kings” was only writing what he knew of this event in the Bible. I don’t believe he knew the history of the Magi.
- We must be careful to “know” our Bible and to “…study to show thyself approved unto God.”
- The thing I enjoy most about my Bible is the truth of it. Eastern countries do not change their history. Therefore, for me, both are not taken lightly.
II. Oh, Star of Wonder
- About the star
- This is one of the greatest choice of words (lyrics) in the song… “Oh, Star of wonder, star of night, star with royal beauty bright. Westward leading, still proceeding, guide us to thy perfect light.”
- This part of the song gives honor to God and His Son Jesus Christ. You may ask… “How?”
- Oh, Star of wonder… the word “wonder” is an event, a person or thing that causes astonishment and admiration. Admiration of the creation of God.
- Star of night … a night star shines upon the “Day star.” II Peter 1:19…We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise (Jesus Christ) in your hearts:
- Star with royal beauty bright … The word “royal” is a tribute to the child of royalty (of God) that the star illuminates.
- Guide us to thy perfect light… This is the best stanza in the song. The kings (magi) are asking the star to guide them to… what? “…thy perfect light.” That “perfect light” is the perfect Lamb, the perfect Son, the perfect Redeemer, the perfect Savior, the perfect King, and perfect Lord.
- I am sure we have brought this out before, but the thing to notice the most in Matthew 2:2 is that fact that Matthew says “his star.” That makes it personal to Jesus Christ our Lord. It is not “a star” or “the star,” but rather “His star.”
- His star is a “perfect light.” And the word “light” in the Bible represents what? WISDOM. The wisdom of God, not of Man. This is perfect.
III. Crown Him Again, King Forever
A) Born a King
- The 2nd verse of the Christmas song titled “We Three Kings” says… “Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain Gold I bring to crown Him again, King forever, ceasing never, over us all to reign.”
- I really like the song writer’s thoughts here in the 2nd verse… “Born a King.” He did not go to the “Magi University of Persia,” being hereditarily chosen. He was “born a King” ordained of God not the Magi. And as Jesus Himself said “My Kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36)
B) On Bethlehem’s plain
- “Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain” This is the message taught all throughout the word of God. Humility. Even though you are a king, be humble. Jesus was the epitome of humbleness.
- “Bethlehem’s plain” is a description of the area Jesus was born in. Bethlehem was not a place of royalty.
- The only royalty that the Jews considered to be of any value was that of King David. David was born in Bethlehem, Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Two great Kings, one accepted, the other rejected by the Jews.
C) Gold I bring to crown Him King again
- Whenever a King is to be witnessed or addressed or presented with something, Gold is the standard.
- To King Jesus, gold is worthless, useless, and not a requirement. It is merely the “thought, or heart” behind the gift of gold giving that is accepted.
- If a person (Jew or Gentile) were to give a cheap gift to a king in the Bible days, they would be cast off, thought of as a low-life, a no account.
- I think it is interesting to review the Law of God given to His people concerning the judges , officials, or any Jew in Exodus 23:8 (KJV)…And thou shalt take no gift: for the gift blindeth the wise, and perverteth the words of the righteous.
- Two reasons are given for them not to take a gift…1) it blinds the wise 2) perverts the words of the righteous. This is today called “bribery.” To give a nice gift to a person clouds their judgment and influences a decision that would otherwise be made differently.
- “crown him king again.” David talks of the first crowning of Jesus Christ in Psalms 8:3-5, repeated by Paul in Hebrews 2:9.
D) King forever
- “King forever” Revelation 6:2 (KJV)And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer.
- This is the crown that is His forever!
- Revelation 1:5…And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, 6) And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
- A king’s reign is decided by the people whom he governs. If a king is a good king, people will wish him to stay in office forever. A bad one will be impeached or overthrown.
- King Jesus reign is forever because of His goodness to His people… faithful witness, the resurrection of the dead, love for us, washing of our sins in His own blood, and making us joint heirs of all that is His.
- I ask you this morning… “Who are these three kings?” What are these kings? And what comparison are they to our Lord Jesus Christ who is King of kings?
- Have you accepted Jesus Christ this morning as your personal Savior and king, to rule within your heart with the laws of God established since the world began? Do it before it is too late.