Traveling music

November 29, 2010

O riginally titled We’ve Been Through The Desert On A Camel With No Name, John Henry Hopkins couldn’t get anyone to sing his Christmas song, so he renamed it.

OK so maybe I made that up.  Reverend John Henry Hopkins wrote We Three Kings Of Orient Are as part of a Christmas Pageant for the General Theological Seminary in NYC, where he taught and directed the music program.   This 1857 carol expresses the hope of the magi, as well as the glory and wonder they experienced in meeting the King in a manger.

The song (I suppose rightfully) does not spend any time on the King Herod part of their journey.  I wonder, as Hopkins must have, whether the three magi even gave Herod a second thought after meeting the Baby.  Yes they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod, and to find a different way home, but I’ll bet the Hope they found drove the fear of Herod right out of them.

I think Rev.  Hopkins did a pretty good job conveying the story from Matthew, chapter 2;  adding drama without adding superfluous details not found in the gospel.  I especially like the fact that Hopkins caught the important point that they worshiped.  “On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.”  (Matthew 2:11)

Although it doesn’t specifically say so in the scripture, I’ll bet the magi headed home with hope for the future because of their Bethlehem experience.

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

Refrain

O star of wonder, star of light,
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.

Refrain

Frankincense to offer have I;
Incense owns a Deity nigh;
Prayer and praising, voices raising,
Worshiping God on high.

Refrain

Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume
Breathes a life of gathering gloom;
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,
Sealed in the stone cold tomb.

Refrain

Glorious now behold Him arise;
King and God and sacrifice;
Alleluia, Alleluia,
Sounds through the earth and skies.

Refrain

If you have to (or get to) travel this holiday season, spend some time thinking, maybe even talking about the magi, the wise men from the east.  Try to imagine what they went through on their journey, probably two years on the trail with no hot tubs or king-sized beds.  And look forward as you travel, as those men did so many years ago, to meeting Royalty.  In a smelly stable.  Or wherever you happen to be.


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