This is day 2 of “The 12 Days Leading to Christmas.” Each day I am highlighting a Christmas hymn that is worth our listening to as Christians this Christmas season. You can read more about the goal of the series here.
Today, I highlight for you “We Three Kings” written by the American John Henry Hopkins in 1857. The hymn poetically describes the Wise Men coming to offer gifts to Jesus after His birth. For a long time I did not like this hymn. I had two thoughts against it. First, I did not like the term “kings.” Matthew’s gospel calls these men “Wise Men” or “Magi.” Second, I did not like the assertion that there were three of them. The Bible does not say how many there were.
However, over time I have changed my opinion (dare I say tune?) on this hymn! There is a rich Christian tradition that suggests that there were three of these Magi that came from the East to worship the young Jesus. That tradition is questionable, but Hopkins uses it to his advantage poetically. And make no mistake: this hymn is poetry and beautiful poetry at that.
Each one of the kings present their gifts (gold, frankincense, and myrrh) and each of the gifts are pictures for the different ministries that Jesus would have in his life. The last verse makes this clear about Jesus – “Glorious now behold him arise; King, and God and sacrifice.” These thoughts should flood our minds as we behold the little baby in the manger. This child will be our forever King, is God in flesh, and is the sacrifice for our sins.
Here are the lyrics:
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. [Refrain]
Frankincense to offer have I;
incense owns a Deity nigh;
prayer and praising, voices raising,
worshiping God on high. [Refrain]
Myrrh is mine; its bitter perfume
breathes a life of gathering gloom;
sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,
sealed in the stone-cold tomb. [Refrain]
Glorious now behold him arise;
King and God and sacrifice:
sounds through the earth and skies. [Refrain]
Have a listen:
Hymn on Piano –