We three kings of Orient are,
Bearing gifts we traverse afar.
So says the song (which we will sing Sunday in celebration of the Epiphany).
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men (Greek: magi) from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.’
So says Matthew (in the only gospel account of this event).
So, from whence the three foreign travelers, magicians, astrologers, and wise men? Matthew does not number the visitors, so why are we so sure there were three?
Granted, this question is no star-stopper. In the end, the meaning of the story is about the faith, trust, humility, integrity, conviction, and courage of the ones who follow a star to meet Jesus – regardless of how many there are.
But maybe this does matter. Maybe Matthew knows the manger is meant for multiple magi. Maybe Matthew is offering this magi-cal cue for how to be a people of faith. Imagine for a moment that the church is meant to be a mass magi movement…
If we read and follow the story this way, then a faithful church would journey together away from places of comfort and travel great distance, at great risk; a faithful church would kneel in unison before Christ in humble adoration; a faithful church would offer its finest and most profound gifts for the glory of God; and a faithful church would internalize the light and love of Christ and then return home, sharing them all along the way.
May God bless the Epiphany journey we share, no less than the place where our star leads us.