Adoration of the Magi by Peter Paul Rubens; Adoration of the Three Kings by Brian Whelan; The Dream of the Three Kings by Brian Whelan
We have been hearing some of the stories of Christmas,
one of the lovely and unusual stories of Christmas
is that of the coming of the Magi.
We usually refer to them as the three Kings
but we’re only guessing that there were three
because of the three gifts which are given to the Christ child.
Perhaps there were more than three but some never found their way,
or they arrived too late, or did other things
very much like some of us on our journeys.
So who were these Kings or Magi?
Tradition has it that they were Persian priests, astrologers,
stargazers, and “Magus”, implies people of magic, perhaps fortune tellers’
Some of you may have come across TS Eliot’s poem
The journey of the Magi,
which imagines the difficulty of their journey to the Christ child.
A poem well worth reading.
A cold coming we had of it and just the worst time of the year for a journey
and such a long journey, the ways deep, the weather sharp, the very dead of winter.
You will remember the intrigue of Herod, who is viciously jealous,
and wants no kingly rivals to his throne.
Sadly his mania, and obsession with power
will lead to the deaths of many infant children.
But the Magi overcome all the challenges of the journey
to find the mother and child
to whom they presented their gifts,
which are a kind of prophecy of the life Jesus will live.
Gold a gift for the King
frankincense, sweet incense, a gift for a priest
and myrrh, embalming ointments, a gift for one who is to die.
The story of the Magi is the story of outsiders coming in,
a reminder that this event in this unknown backwater of the Roman Empire, is an international event, a cosmic event
of God becoming human for us in the child of Bethlehem.
One of the Magi in Eliot’s poem when reflecting on this event many years later says:
Were we led all that way for Birth or death?
There was a birth, certainly we have evidence and no doubt.
I had seen birth and death and had thought they were different.
This birth was hard and bitter agony for us, like death our death
The gifts that the wise men bring are really the gifts of all life.
Gold, a gift for a king, a gift of life of someone that is special in God sight, a child of God, and a preserver of all that is of value in life.
And that values our place within nature and our interdependence on the whole of life and all living things. Our gold coin is this living planet.
Frankincense, or incense, the aroma of a Christian people, and priesthood of all believers who connect and reconcile people with one another and with God. Who call each other to recognise the spiritual nature of life in a material world,
In order to bring out the best in humanity and in each one of us.
Myrrh, the gift of a life that has to be lived with limitations, of someone who is going to die one day. Someone who understands life as a gift and lives with faith and trust with humility and joy.
And so today in this Eucharist we bring our gift of life,
Our myrrh and place it before God in this Eucharist,
our Love feast of Thanksgiving.
The Map You Make Yourself
A Blessing for Women’s Christmas
By Jan Richardson
This poem by Jan Richardson invites us on an inward journey.
You have looked
at so many doors
wondering if your life
lay on the other side.
choose the door
to the inside.
Travel the most ancient way
the path that leads you
to the center
of your life.
but the one
you make yourself.
but what you already carry
and the grace that comes
to those who walk
the pilgrim’s way.
Speak this blessing
as you set out
and watch how
your rhythm slows,
the cadence of the road
drawing you into the pace
that is your own.
Eat when hungry.
Rest when tired.
Listen to your dreaming.
as doors deeper in.
Pray for protection.
Ask for the guidance you need.
for the gifts that come
let them go.
Do not expect
by the same road.
Home is always
by another way
and you will know it
not by the light
that waits for you
but by the star
that blazes inside you
where you are
and you are welcome
© Jan Richardson
Jan Richardson is an artist, a writer, a poet and an ordained minister in the United Methodist Church. You can see more of her works online.
The Chalking of the Doors.
I have recently discovered that in certain parts of the world people practice this ritual of the Chalking of the Doors on the Feast of the Epiphany, the arrival of the magi to the Christ Child.
They write this in chalk in front of the door of their homes.
20+C+M+B + 23
20 for the 21 century – Caspar + Melchior + Balthazar (The legendary names of the Kings) + 23 for the new year.
Then they say a prayer of blessing. I have written such a prayer opposite.
I love this painting by He Qui the Chinese artist. The characters represent for me the difference and strangeness of people of other cultures who come to visit the Christ child and bring their gifts. They and their gifts are lovingly valued and accepted.
Prayer for the Chalking
Lord of the journey
the wise men returned home
by another way to find their new
and true home in you.
We ask you that through this chalking
that you will bless our home
and family life together.
that it will be a place of peace and welcome
And that you will continue
To radiate the light your presence
In the home we have prepared
for you within our hearts,
Our Epiphany Lord. Amen