“We, three kings, of orient are! Bearing gifts, we traverse afar. Field and fountain, moor and mountain, following yonder star!”
So. Someone told me last night, jokingly, I hope, that I “ruined” the Christmas story. If you don’t want to rethink things you’ve held to be facts, then don’t read any further. But if you’re curious about what the Bible actually SAYS about the Magi, read on.
Actually, the Bible says very, very little about these people. We know that they were magi-cians (see what happened there? From the Greek “magi”), fortune tellers, astrologers, psychics, you know…weirdos. They’re only in the book of Matthew, just like the star. They “saw his star at its rising,” and made their way from the east to see king Herod, to ask him directions, basically. It doesn’t necessarily mean the orient, although that might be implied, but the East.
There were not necessarily three of them, and they definitely were not kings. They weren’t even men, either, not all of them….there is some decent evidence that some of the magi could have been women! All it says is “magi,” plural. The orthodox church’s legend is that there are twelve of them. They probably looked more like a band of gypsies than the three turbaned dudes we usually see. I’m reimagining the Christmas pageants of the future…..
The point of all this is that the magi were part of the ragtag band of weirdos that ended up at the manger. They were people on the fringe, not kings. They were part of the crowd that included a teen mom, a confused dad, a country midwife (who always gets left out of the manger scene, when surely she was there!), some smelly shepherds, farm animals, and angels that could not stay hidden as usual because they were too joyful. The magi are just another part of the story of our God-with-us faith. They might look a little different than we thought, but they still came to worship the newborn king.