In western Christianity, Epiphany, or Three Kings Day commemorates the visit of the Magi to the Christ child.
Epiphany, is also celebrated as the Feast of Lights. The traditional gifts that the wise men brought were foreshadowing of who he was. The gold represented wealth and royalty and was a sign that he would be king. Frankincense, a sign that he was holy and the “Great High Priest.” Myrrh was a bitter spice used to wrap the bodies of the dead. Mary and the women were taking spices to the tomb on Resurrection morning.
While our traditional nativity sets and Christmas pageants have the wise men at the stable, that wasn’t quite the case.
We read in Matthew that the magi came to his house.
Matthew 2:11 "And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him..."
Further, after the wise men visit Herod and then are instructed not to go back to tell him they had found the child, Herod has all the boys two years old and younger killed, based on the assumed time of Jesus’ birth. Joseph and Mary are able to safely flee into Egypt.
One of the most accurate Christmas pageants described to me was where the wise men appeared when the Christ child was a toddler. The child actor, who was the real son of the actors portraying Joseph and Mary was comfortable with his parents and looked in wonder and pointed to the splendor of the kings. It is easy to believe the Christ child, fully God yet fully human, would have reacted much the same way.
As with gladness, men of old
Did the guiding star behold
As with joy they hailed its light
Leading onward, beaming bright
So, most glorious Lord, may we
Evermore be led to Thee.
As with joyful steps they sped
To that lowly manger bed
There to bend the knee before
Him Whom Heaven and earth adore;
So may we with willing feet
Ever seek Thy mercy seat.
As they offered gifts most rare
At that manger rude and bare;
So may we with holy joy,
Pure and free from sin’s alloy,
All our costliest treasures bring,
Christ, to Thee, our heavenly King.
Holy Jesus, every day
Keep us in the narrow way;
And, when earthly things are past,
Bring our ransomed souls at last
Where they need no star to guide,
Where no clouds Thy glory hide.
In the heavenly country bright,
Need they no created light;
Thou its Light, its Joy, its Crown,
Thou its Sun which goes not down;
There forever may we sing
Alleluias to our King!
Words by William C. Dix