In 1857 Reverend John Henry Hopkins, Jr. who was an author, book illustrator, stained glass window designer, clergyman and editor of the New York Church Journal wrote this carol for a pageant. The lyrics tell the story of three magi or wise men named Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar who set out on a long journey with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh for the baby Jesus.
Over the years there have been many debates about whether this carol is accurate in its details. Were there only three wise men? Did they actually find their destination by following a star in the sky? Was their arrival at the stable the same night that the baby was born? Who paid expenses for the journey?
It's funny how sometimes we think things have to be a certain way "just because" someone said that this was so. Christmas movies and advertisements imply that all family members must be together on December 25th. This ignores the fact that firefighters, policemen, hospital staff and many other individuals actually work on that date. There are many other reasons why people cannot see each other over the holiday season such as illness, distance, or finances. But these circumstances shouldn't interfere with the fact that we have a reason to celebrate.
Each year North American airlines, train and bus companies prepare for over one hundred million travelers during the holidays. No camels or stars to facilitate the trip but weather and delays can definitely inconvenience and interfere with itineraries. The wise men also must have had difficulties that they hadn't expected or welcomed.
It has always seemed rather strange to me that the wise men took a newborn baby gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Perhaps they were chosen because they were easy to transport and then sell as each was very valuable. I don't imagine that your Christmas shopping list had any of these items on it. However, the gifts you give and receive this year might not seem to be the most suitable or appropriate.
Last year I gave each of my grandchildren a milkshake machine and was surprised when my older granddaughter said "That's what you gave us last year?"
Well, just like the three Kings, your Christmas will likely have many similarities. Perhaps you will be travelling a long distance to be with people you want to see. I imagine you will take at least some unusual gifts. Maybe you will have interesting adventures or detours on the way there - and then be thankful that you arrived safely.
No matter where you will be or who you will be with over the holidays, I hope that you will remember and enjoy the final words in Rev. Hopkin's carol. His words offer the true hope for us all:
Guide us to Thy Perfect Light