I have been thinking about the 3 Kings for the past weeks. I sometimes feel that the 3 Kings are my kindred spirits. They were even more dilatory about Christmas than I am. Some biblical scholars speculate that the Wise Men may have arrived at the stable two years after the birth of Christ. I'm not that late, yet.
Even though the 3 Kings were late arrivals to the manger, they are still an important part of the Christmas pageant at our church. The pageant is open to any child from the youngest stars to the middle school students who are expected to handle the more taxing parts: Mary, Joseph, Gabriel. Middle school consists of that funny age when the potential Marys are all much much taller than any possible Joseph.
One Joseph candidate (tall enough middle school student) turned down the role. He informed his mother that this year he would be the Whiskey King. And you may ask where the Whiskey King fits in to the story. Well, in our church one of the 3 kings carries a Crown Royal bottle spray painted gold - hence a new hero is born: Whiskey King.
At the top of the post is a column capital from Autun Cathedral. My friend Inez told me about it. I love the fact that the 3 kings are sleeping together under a blanket and the angel is prodding them to get a move on with one long, angelic finger. "Get up sleepy heads and follow yonder star!"
According to tradition and the church calendar, the Kings will arrive at the manger on Epiphany, January 6. In Finland the Christmas holiday will last until Epiphany or Loppiainen. Here kids return to school on January 3.
I could write more about the kings. I have been to Cologne and seen their reliquary. But, I have to prepare for church. I will end with T.S. Eliot's poem about the 3 Kings:
Journey of the Magi
'A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.'
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and thelack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.
Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling ofvegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no imformation, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say)satisfactory.
All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death?There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt.I had seen birth and
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.