December 8 – We Three Kings (A Christmas Carol Advent)





Also known as We Three Kings of Orient Are and “The Quest of the Magi” this song was written by the Reverend John H. Hopkins, Jr. (pastor of Christ Episcopal Church) in 1857.  Hopkins wrote both the lyrics and the music for a Christmas Pageant at General Theological Seminary.

Commentary & Analysis

I included this song because the “three kings” are one of the more widely misunderstood and misinterpreted aspects of Christmas.  Despite the fact that so many manger scenes show the wise men in the manger, the Bible actually indicates that Jesus may have been as old as two years old.  Herod had all the boy children two years old and younger killed based on the information from the wise men.  The Bible also refers to Jesus as a “child” when the wise men finally arrived.  Finally, the Bible only indicates that “wise men came from the east.”  There is no indication as to the country of origin, number of visitors or that they were “Kings.”  All of this information has been inferred from the very little information actually included in the text.  For example, the idea that there were three visitors is likely an outgrowth of the fact that three gifts are mentioned in the text.

One of the facets of this song which I find most interesting in the verses which add symbolism to the three gifts.  Gold is said to represent a crown for a King, the rising smell of incense to the offering of praise and worship, and myrrh for the bitterness of the death of Christ.  While this is interesting, it has no biblical basis.

Questions for further Reflection / Devotion

The following questions are meant for your reflection and or devotion.  Feel free to meditate on them, discuss them with your family or others or post your responses here.  I would love to hear from you.

  1. Do you still put your “wise men” in the manger scene with the shepherds and baby Jesus?
  2. Are there any aspects of the Christmas story that you have accepted from Christmas carols without verifying that they are in the biblical account?
  3. What gifts will you offer to Jesus this year?
  4. One verse in this song indicates that the wise men were led to the perfect light of Christ.  Where is God shining his light into your life?  What are you going to do about it?
  5. The wise men followed a star across “field and fountain, moor and mountain.”  Is there somewhere God is trying to lead you that you are resisting?  Spend time meditating on God’s plan for your life.


We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar.
Field and fountain, moor and mountain,
Following yonder star.

O star of wonder, star of night,
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect Light.

Born a king on Bethlehem’s plain,
Gold I bring to crown Him again,
King forever, ceasing never
Over us all to reign.


Frankincense to offer have I.
Incense owns a Deity nigh.
Prayer and praising all men raising,
Worship Him, God on high.


Myrrh is mine: Its bitter perfume
Breaths a life of gathering gloom.
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding dying,
Sealed in the stone-cold tomb.


Glorious now behold Him arise,
King and God and Sacrifice.
Alleluia, alleluia!
Sounds through the earth and skies.


Return to a Christmas Carol Advent index page.

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