This morning we’re going to think about some characters that don’t always get a look in at Christmas. Now there’s a good reason for that. They may be letf out because they missed the first one. They weren’t actually there when Jesus was actually born. And they didn’t get to see him as a newborn baby. They pitched up some time afterwards. And that’s OK because they’d travelled a long way to get there.
We’re going to think about the characters known as the Kings. But the truth is; they weren’t kings. Did you spot what the Bible calls them?
Let me introduce you to our resident expert on all things Christmassy. Her name is Carol Service. Say hello Carol. Carol is like a walking talking Wikipedia. There’s nothing that she doesn’t know. And that’s because she worked hard at school.
Carol, why don’t you tell us about the Magi.
We get the English word ‘magic’ from the Bible’s word ‘Magi’. So the Magi were probably magicians. They were Wizards like Dumbledore from Harry Potter, except that they were really real and not made up in a pretend story. They were astrologers and so they studied the stars to try and understand life.
Am I right in thinking that here are lots of things that we don’t know about these Magi?
We don’t know what they were called. Traditionally they’re called Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar. But we’re only guessing because the Bible doesn’t say. We’ll find out for sure when we meet them in the New Creation. We don’t know how many there were. Traditionally we think there were three. But we’re only guessing because the bible doesn’t say. We don’t know where they came from. All that the Bible says is that they came from the East, which is a very big area. All we know is that they weren’t born and brought up in the nation of Israel.
To make this sketch come alive, I’m going to need some wise men. And knowing you as I do, I know that this is not a futile search. This church is awash with wise men. So let me select three at random.
Scene 1: Choosing the Presents
We’re going to pick up the story before they set out from the East. The Magi can be found in their local Argos Store. They’re flicking through the laminated catalogue of dreams. But they can’t decide what a suitable present for a baby might be. At which point let’s turn to Carol Service. Carol, you have an article for us.
Yes, that’s right. Writing in the Guardian a month ago these were the top 10 recommended presents for babies and toddlers
1. A skittle set
2. A dog on wheels
3. A soft bear
4. Arctic Animal Cushions
5. Landscape Scene Rompers
6. A shape sorter
7. A rocking horse
8. A balance bike
9. Animals frocks
10. A world map print
Personally I think that gives more insight into Guardian readers than any practical help in choosing a present. But in the end, the wise men got it right. They knew that this was no ordinary king. And so they managed to choose presents that help us understand who he was.
One of them selected gold because Jesus is a king. Let’s go to Carol Service for a brief comment on this choice of gift.
Gold is actually a precious metal. It looks like this. It’s a very expensive present and so it can only be given by very wealthy people. It’s the kind of present that you’d give to a King because it symbolises royalty.
So actually it’s a great present to give to Jesus because He is the King of God’s people. He’s been born to rule. He governs and guides us by ruling us through His words.
One of them selected frankincense because Jesus is divine. Let’s go to Carol Service for a brief comment on this choice of gift.
Frankincense is a smelly resin that’s taken from the sap of a tree. It looks like this. It’s used in worship because when it’s burnt it produces incense that rises up to God in the heavens.
So it’s actually a great present for Jesus because He is God. He’s not just every other baby. He’s special. Because he’s a human baby but he’s also a divine baby. That’s why he’d be known as Immanuel because he’s God with us.
One selected myrrh because Jesus is our sacrifice. Let’s go to Carol Service for a brief comment on this choice of gift.
Myrrh is a spice. It looks like this. It’s used to put on dead bodies when they’re buried. It symbolises death.
It’s actually a great present for Jesus because he’s going to die. That’ll be one of the most important things about this baby. He’s going to die as a sacrifice and save us.
Jesus is the kind of king who will die for his people because he loves them. He is someone to trust.
Scene 2: Getting Ready to Leave
We rejoin the Magi as they sit in the departure lounge waiting for their transport. But this was before International Flights. And so what do you imagine they used to get there? The following song may help.
We three kings of orient are,
One in a taxi and one in a car,
One on a scooter blowing his hooter,
Following yonder star
The second verse may be less well known,
We three kings of Leicester Square,
Selling pants a penny a pair,
Quite fantastic no elastic,
Not very safe to wear,
To make this realistic, I’m going to need some camels. But before they set off, where do they ask to go? And why do you think that they ask to go there? Where should they have asked to go? And how where they going to get there? Satnav?
God gave them a star, not Google maps to help them know where to go. This is going to be a different type of royal baby. Jesus is not a king who enjoyed earthly splendour by being born in a wonderful palace. He was born in a manger, an animals’ feeding trough.
But why were they going? There’s a word that appears three times in the text. In 2, 8 & 11. We might expect an adult to stoop down on their haunches and approach a child on their level in order to be understood. But that’s not what’s going on here. The word’s translated ‘bowed down’ and ‘worshipped him’ imply that they lie down flat on the ground before him. That’s not normal. Adults don’t usually lie down flat on the ground in front of small children unless they have very good reason to do so. These wise men thought that they did. They were absolutely convinced that this child possessed authority unlike any other.
Jesus is the kind of king who ought to be worshipped. He is someone to be captivated by.
Scene 3: After the Event
We rejoin the events outside a house where we can catch up with the Magi as they emerge from seeing Jesus for the first time. There’s only one question to ask, isn’t there? How did it feel?
They were overjoyed. They danced and celebrated. They hugged each other.
Jesus is the kind of king who produces great joy in those that follow him. He is a someone to get excited about.
So there you have it. The Mystical Magi.
- They gave gifts
- They paid homage
- They were overjoyed