“And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:11)
There are many things that have crept into our Christmas traditions that are not actually in the biblical account of our Lord’s birth. Two of them are present in the title of this carol. Firstly, we do not know how many Magi there were. We assume because there were three gifts that there must have been three gift givers but that is not in the Bible. Secondly, we have no indication from scripture that they were kings. They were definitely from the upper class of the country they were from, but we have no indication that they were royalty. This being said, what I like about this carol is that it pulls out what I think is indicated by the three gifts that the Magi give. Gold is a gift given to kings and points to Jesus as the King of kings. Frankincense is to be put into the hands of a priest and offered to God. This indicates to us that Jesus will be our High Priest before the Father. Myrrh is not really a gift anyone would want to receive because it speaks of bitterness and death for it is bitter to the taste and was used for the preparing of the dead for burial. This gift indicates the bitter suffering and death that Jesus will endure in order to pay the price for our sin. Therefore we learn from the gifts of the Magi that Jesus is King, High Priest, and Savior.
WE THREE KINGS OF ORIENT ARE
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.
Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain,
gold I bring to crown him again,
King forever, ceasing never,
over us all to reign.
Frankincense to offer have I;
incense owns a Deity nigh;
prayer and praising, voices raising,
worshiping God on high.
Myrrh is mine; its bitter perfume
breathes a life of gathering gloom;
sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,
sealed in the stone-cold tomb.
Glorious now behold him arise;
King and God and sacrifice:
sounds through the earth and skies.