We Three Kings of Orient Are!
Well, the Bible does not say that we are kings. The Bible calls us magi, which could mean magicians, or it could means astrologers. Or it could just mean people learned in the arcane arts—like zodiacs, the laws and messages of the stars, medicine, philosophy, and high-level mathematics. Also, it does not say there were three of us. It says that there were magi, which means that we are more than one magus. People say that we were three because we presented three gifts—gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the little baby in the manger. But maybe two of us brought gold, two of us brought some myrrh, and one of us brought frankincense. Maybe all of us brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh, and the night before we got to Bethlehem we arranged all the contributions in three easy packages, or bags, or wooden lock boxes, or what have you. Scripture does not say and neither will we.
We will not say because we have to keep a low profile. First of all, we (and we will not say whether there were two, three, or a host of us) all saw a star rising in the East. In the learned and deep conversations which are customary of us, although we have been known to enjoy appropriate amounts of humor at auspicious moments in the year, we discussed the appearance of this star and decided together and unanimously that it heralded the birth of the great king of the Jews which was long foretold in their Holy Scriptures, with which some us may have been familiar and may have quoted extensively in a very interesting and stimulating discussion of Semitic religion in what you now call the Ancient Near East. As one we all felt a great desire to pay this king homage, for it was clear to us that any king whose birth could call forth a brand new star deserved the homage of all persons, and therefore made haste to depart from our country—or countries, we will not say—of origin and journey to Jerusalem, the capital city of the Jews at that time. At any rate, since we went to visit a newborn king, we went to the palace, where we did not find a newborn king but rather another king named Herod who was very clearly not recently born but rather had attained full human maturity some time ago and was perhaps—and we make no final judgment here—perhaps given over somewhat to sweetmeats and wine. He displayed a remarkable amount of interest in our discovery and wished to be informed about this new king, as he too wished to pay him homage, as we wanted.
And yet there was no king to be found in Jerusalem, but as magi, we were used to encountering discrepancies in our zodiac-casting and in reality, so Herod turned to the local experts. They surprised us by demonstrating a superior understanding of their Scriptures than we had, and thus we left the palace to Bethlehem. Yet although we were unacquainted with those books and their interpretations, we did notice the star began to move—it left its orbit and the dance of the spheres and moved, as it were, to its own rhythm and we all decided, both out of a deep emotional conviction but also out a heady mixture of scientific incredulity and curiosity, to follow the star. The star moved; we followed; and we came to a child in a feeding trough, closely watched by a young mother and father and some livestock, consisting of an ox, a donkey, some sheep, and the regular vermin of the ground.
Whereupon, we, the magi, knelt and gave our gifts to the child, although we handed them for safekeeping to the parents, since infants must not eat frankincense or myrrh and are not to be trusted with gold.
One night—whether it was on our journey from Jerusalem to Bethlehem or that night in Bethlehem, we all had the same dream. We will not say what happened in the dream, but we all understood the warning—not to go back to the grown-up king in Jerusalem, but instead to proceed directly to our home or homes.
Although we are all very wise and very learned indeed, and although we are all very practiced at higher-level mathematics that had not been achieved for centuries and would not be achieved for a millennium, and although we have a remarkable capacity to endure long talks on specialized subjects, we report that we have been changed. We are not giving up our scientific work, but we have a different aim, and see by a different light. We see something now behind the stars, something that we could never see before, and still only now see glimmers or glimpses thereof. We know that you, the reader, may also have encountered this baby recently, and also feel that something has changed. Perhaps we can join our fellowships and discover, together, what this child means for us.
What do you say?
The Reverend John Flack