About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the newborn King of the Jews? We have seen his star as it arose, and we have come to worship him.” – Matthew 2:1, NLT
If there is one story in the Bible that I choose to believe, it is the story of The Three Kings coming to pay homage to Baby Jesus. It is a story of adoration, science, and faith. What more could one possibly want in a story? Join me, in my interpretation of this biblical event and how it possibly came about.
Melchior, Caspar, Balthazar
The year is 5 BC, give or take a few years. Three scholarly men, Melchior, Caspar, and Balthazar, happen to meet at an annual “meeting of the minds”. One of the men mentioned hearing that a prophet claimed a new ruler would be born in a lowly village. The other two men said they too had heard the same and “wouldn’t it be a great to travel across the land to pay our respects to a Newborn King?”
Who were these three men? Were the Three Kings actually Kings, Wise Men, or Magi? They were all those things, by early definition. What many do not know is that all three men were of the ancient religion Zoroastrianism. This religion prided itself in its profound study of the stars, an early science. The Three Kings were, in fact, astrologers.
All three agreed to make the journey to meet the newborn. Since they were astrologers, they naturally consulted the stars before and during their travels.
The Star of Bethlehem
Each night, the vast heavens illuminated with billions of stars cascading upon the land. City lights and air pollution did not exist back then, so the clarity of the sky was astounding. Finally, after patiently waiting, high in the midnight-blue sky, a new star shone bright – The Star of Bethlehem. They instantly recognized it as the fulfilling of The Prophecy. The baby, who would change the world, was born. The men mounted their beasts of burden, carrying only water, some light snacks, and the two most important things of all: their knowledge of the night-sky and their gifts for Baby Jesus.
The Three Kings kept forward and onward, until they reached their destination. They were greeted by baby lambs that sniffed at their now tattered, dusty clothing as they entered the humble abode. Three Wise Men coming to see your infant, would be today’s equivalent of Einstein, Stephen Hawking and Neil deGrasse Tyson knocking on your door bearing gifts. It would be a mind blowing honor.
They entered the house where the child and his mother, Mary, were and they fell down before him and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. – Matthew 2:11, NLV
Be Among Those Who Renew the World
The Three Kings fell to their knees to greet another King. Why would Kings of Zoroastrianism bow down to a King of another religion? Because according to Zoroastrianism, the purpose of life is to “be among those who renew the world… to make the world progress toward perfection.” It's not to be among those who rule the world, but those who renew it.
The Three Magi presented their gifts and left. They came and went, never to be seen again. And just like that, a new religion had not only been born, but had been acknowledged.
The Three Kings did not convert to Christianity, nor did they expect anything in return. Their appearance in the Bible is but a quick eye-blink in the timeline. Yet, everybody knows the story and gifts they left behind.
Gifts of Modern Day Christmas
Christmas Day was 12 days ago. Can you recall all the gifts you received and the people you saw that day? I can barely recall all the gifts I gave. I have always been a bit confused with Christmas, its role with practicing and non-practicing Christians. I see it as a lot of stress and chaos, with a feeling of void come December 26th.
Our gifts of today have become frivolous and convenient. I picked up some gifts at Target, paid for them through self check-out and drove 80 miles an hour on a smooth freeway to deliver them. Would traveling by camelback to deliver a gift motivate me to choose a gift with deeper sentiment or purpose, a gift that would be remembered if that person were never to see me again?
How, why, and where did we lose the meaning of paying homage to the newborn King?
Did we lose it when we also lost faith in the Universe? Very few look up to the night sky to admire it, much less to consult in it. Astrologers of Jesus’s time were revered. Today, people who say they’ll ask the stars or, “The stars above led me here,” are labeled as lunatics.
However, when we are faced with uncertainty in life we suddenly turn to The Universe or God to please give us “a sign” of what to do. We look everywhere for that sign, except at The Cosmos. Perhaps the signs that the Three Kings used are the signs we have neglected and have forgotten how to read. After all, the stars, the moon, and the planets that every single life has lived under, are the same exact stars, moon and planets that The Three Kings and Jesus himself stared at. Since, and even before, the birth of Jesus many religions have come and gone; entire indigenous tribes and languages have come and gone; friends and lovers have come and gone. But, The Cosmos remain.
The Three Kings followed that bright star, as if it were the only light in the sky. They did not lose sight of it, they did not lose hope, and they, certainly, did not doubt their interpretation of it. It was a testament to their unwavering faith, whether it be in a star, a baby, or their religious beliefs.
Keep Jesus Close
When I left Catholicism 16 years ago, all I could see were its faults, the inconsistencies of the Bible, the contradictions, and the stories of suffering. I divorced myself from my religion because I just didn’t “get it,” this whole Jesus/Christianity thing. Yet, a part of me yearns to keep Jesus in my life in some capacity!
My cousin recently introduced me to essential oils. When I perused the catalogue I saw “Frankincense” listed. I immediately wanted some. I needed to know how an oil carried across miles by starlight smelled, how it would feel on my skin. I learned I have a bit of Zoroastrianism in me. I want to be “among those who renew the world.” Somehow, I knew placing a bit of Frankincense on my wrists would make me feel closer to my old friend, Jesus. The oil, during this sacred time of year, reminds me of His life purpose, of how He embraced the ill, the poor, and the “naughty” and how He changed the world. Whether one is a believer not, there is no denying that He truly changed the world. Like a friend told me, “No man has ever had a bigger impact on humankind as Jesus Christ.”
The True Gifts Left Behind
Perhaps the Three Kings left more than the three known gifts. The Gold (value) was something he could use during his lifetimes, Frankincense (a perfume for a Deity), something to enjoy during his lifetime and Myrrh (an embalming oil), a significant indication and reminder of his own human mortality. It’s possible these Magi of Zoroastrianism had a higher hidden agenda. It’s as if they instilled Jesus’s personality with the Zoroastrianism’s basic principals:
- Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds
- There is only one path and that path is Truth
- Do the right thing, because it is the right thing to do
Those are the true gifts they left behind.
The Three Kings respected something, someone, outside of their religion. The story is a story of believing in something greater than themselves. It’s about showing deep reverence for another human being and that human being’s life’s purpose, not necessarily their own life purpose.
Why can’t we seem to do that, honor another person’s life’s purpose? With that, I have an intense desire to commemorate Three Kings Day and the Newborn King. My gift come January 6, is a donation of my O Positive blood at the blood bank. It’s a start and also an olive branch to a religion I’ve scorned for many years. I won’t be converting back to Catholicism, but I will be reading up on Zoroastrianism! Over 2 million people still practice this curious religion.
In researching The Three Kings, I learned that January 6 is also known as The Day of Epiphany. And would you know, this whole Jesus/Christianity thing…I finally “get it”.
Can’t get enough of Kings? Read about another King, The King of Rock & Roll, Elvis, and his role in my life, A Love Story.