O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to Thy perfect light
Christmas carols have always been a mysterious phenomenon to me. They contain clear, sometimes deep and complicated expressions of the Christian faith that are nonetheless a part of secular society because they are … well … Christmas carols. They are a part of the Christmas tradition everyone seems to accept. There’s more theology crammed into just one of these carols than in most sermons, and yet you can hear them in supermarkets, restaurants, Christmas shows, and from carolers on your front lawn.
My father was a choir director when I was a kid and the choir used to sing carols in department stores and hotel lobbies throughout Pasadena, California. The most memorable was on Christmas Day. We would have our Christmas early and then meet up with the choir at the stately Huntington Hotel where the football players from the Big 10 team that was represented that year in the Rose Bowl game on New Year’s Day were already in town getting ready for the big game. The choir would carol in the lobby, but always go up and down the hallways of the rooms where the players were staying and many of them would come to their doors expressing great emotion upon hearing the music and missing being home for Christmas. We usually met the visiting coaches: Woody Hayes … Duffy Daugherty.
We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar
Field and fountain, moor and mountain
Following yonder star
Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain
Gold I bring to crown Him again
King forever, ceasing never
Over us all to reign
This, of course, is the song of the wise men. They were far from home too. They had come to pay homage to a king represented in the heavens by a star that directed them to the place where Jesus was living. And when they arrived, they brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, each one symbolic of this God/man/child and what He was here to do. Gold represented His kingship; frankincense, His priestly role; and myrrh, as an embalming oil, foreshadowed the importance of His death.
Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume
Breathes of life of gathering gloom
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying
Sealed in the stone-cold tomb
Not for long, however, for this little carol doesn’t miss His resurrection.
Glorious now behold Him arise
King and God and Sacrifice
Earth to heav’n replies
From child to risen Lord, from baby to king, from death to life — how glorious and bright He shines! So many missed it. The unlikely kings from the unlikely East got it. Ones you wouldn’t expect. Astrologers. Eastern mystics. Kings who studied the world and came up with the most important event in human history. While others slept on, these guys kept on. And as this song plays on in shopping malls and supermarkets, listen for it. Find it out in the world, just where we find Christ, today. Worship in the world where many are still seeking Him — still proceeding. Who are the unlikely kings today?
ADVENT QUESTION (Marti wants to know…)
Are you one of the Kings today? If yes, tell us about your journey, and if no, why not?
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