Today’s devotional is by Alan Dourish

“We three kings of orient are, one on a bike and two in a car…” Okay, this isn’t the traditional opening line to this very well-known Christmas carol, but – like many of the other carols we have already touched upon in our countdown – the fact that it is adapted is testament to its popularity and endurance.

The actual opening verse takes us back to the early years of Jesus’ life on earth, when He was visited by the magi, wise men from the east. The presence of three gifts means that we have traditionally believed there must have been three magi, but, in truth, there is no way of knowing. What we do know is that the gifts they brought – Gold, frankincense and myrrh – were all highly symbolic gifts fit for a king (indeed, the King of Kings).Gold symbolised royalty; frankincense symbolised Jesus’ divinity as the Son of God; and myrrh pointed towards the cruel death He would face on the cross at Calvary.

I have always enjoyed singing this carol, not least as I feel it ‘bounces along’, almost like someone riding a camel! In particular, I love the refrain - “O star of wonder” etc., - but the carol, as a whole, is a wonderful trip through the account given to us in Matthew 2:1-13, while also referencing many other promises contained in Scripture relating to Jesus.  For example, in verse 4, we sing “sealed in the stone cold tomb”. Indeed, Jesus was buried in a tomb but – wonderfully – He did not stay there and the carol does not finish there, as we then exclaim in verse 5, “Glorious now behold him arise!”

The author of the carol, John H. Hopkins, was the son of an Irish man from Dublin, although he himself was born and raised in America (one of 12 children!). He went on to become a very popular minister, who used his talents to create and edit many hymns over the course of his life.