We Three Kings
The waters of the Red Sea have never been red; a dipper of water drawn from that sea comes up just as clear as it would from anywhere else. But according to the local lore, the red clay of the surrounding land gives that sea the appearance of red wine.
More than 2,000 years ago, King Melchior reigned over the lands near the Red Sea; on one special day however, he was a traveler on an important mission. The footpaths in his region were nameless and unmarked, but Melchior knew exactly where he was going, for he had the Star to guide him. This was like no other star anyone had ever seen–it glowed as brightly as the sun, both in the day and in the night–and from it, the light flowed across the sky in bright streaks and beams. And that Star led him onward.
The star and its special significance had been long foretold. Thus, Melchior carried with him a gift of gold, for his kingdom was renowned for the finest gold. His special gift was to be presented to an extraordinary child.
By some act of fate, Melchior met King Balthazar, from Sheba, who was on the selfsame mission. Balthazar had brought his own special gift—frankincense—which dripped from the trees in his own country more than in any other place in the world. These two kings were next met by King Gaspar, an Ethiope from a mysterious land called Tharsis. Gaspar was the tallest and carried from his region a substance called myrrh, which was well-known for its healing qualities. Together they traveled, led ever onward by the Star.
This little group—the Magi or Wise Men as they would become known–followed the Star to the Christ Child, in a lowly stable in Bethlehem, and their visit has been recalled throughout the centuries on Epiphany, the twelfth day of Christmas.
But after that, what happened to the Three Kings? They are briefly mentioned in Matthew 2:1-8, but then they disappear back into the mists of the centuries. Like many tales from that era, their story is part history, part legend.
They were depicted in artwork as wandering travelers, and it should come as no surprise that they became the patrons of travelers the world over. In Bethlehem, the Church of the Nativity once displayed a mosaic of them approaching Jesus. They were eventually buried together, and according to legend, they were moved several times over the years. Today, and for centuries, the bones of the Magi reside at the Cathedral of Cologne, Germany, an ancient outpost of the Roman Empire.
The poet Dean Trench told their story thus in part:
From that region of the morn
Are ye come, thus travel-worn,
With those boxes pearl-embossed,
Caskets rare, and gifts of cost.
While your swarth attendants wait
At the stable’s outer gate,
And camels slowly lift their head
High above the lowly shed…
…Dearer for the mystery
That is round you-on what skies
Gazing, saw you first arise,
Thro’ the darkness, that clear star.
Warmest wishes for a Merry Christmas