The 5 Kings at Christmas

Yesterday was the feast of the Epiphany. This is the story about how the magi came and adored the Child Jesus. Matthew’s account of the story is very sparse. The word “magi” is a very difficult word to translate as it could mean a king or a wise man or something else. Also, Matthew never tells us how many magi were there. Tradition assumes there were three because of the three gifts. It is from this traditional view that we will take today’s reflection.

What can we take from the idea that there were three foreign kings? First, we must be aware that being a king means sovereignty. A king is at the top of a system of authority with those subject underneath. In the human soul, we have three divisions that all vie for supremacy in the person.

The first is the intellect. This is the rotational/analytic part of the soul. This is where our knowledge and our logic reside. This is represented by the gift of gold, which shines with the luster of light, like the light of reason. It also is represents the practical end of worldly success that prudence would give.

The second is the passion. This the emotional center of the soul that is concerned with feeling and the pleasures and pains of the senses. The pleasing aroma of frankincense reminds us of the appetites and delights of being a body with five senses.

The third is the will. This is the part of the soul that directs the whole person to action. Here is where we make the internal choice to do what we think is right or wrong. This is symbolized by the myrrh. It reminds us of the act of sacrifice which is the supreme expression of the will’s power.

Notice that these three kings are foreign and must journey outside their own nation. That is because our intellect, passion, and will must bow to something superior to it. And to find that, we must look outside of the self. We cannot be the final lord over our own lives. That would mean that the meaning of our existence would fall onto our shoulders. But human beings, since we are not the cause of our existence we cannot be the source of our own meaning. We have to find a meaning outside of our own little lives. This will require searching. Notice it is not a blind search. They have have the light of the star to guide them. In the same way, we have the witnesses of history and of God’s presence in the world to today to guide us.

So the three kings first make their way to the King Herod. He is a horribly practical man. For him, the ends justify the means. Do not forget that Satan tempted Christ with all of the kingdoms of the world. This implies that the kingdoms of the world belong to Satan. It would seem that the domain of politics has something a bit demonic in it. I don’t mean to say that all those who go into politics are wicked. But I believe we can all agree that the corruption that is present in the centers of power is a real poison in our political institutions.

Herod is a man of power who is only concerned with holding onto that power. He does not receive the three kings as messengers of enlightenment. He seeks to exploit them as tools of his state. This is why Christ always warned us about being too much of the world. This world was created by God and it is good, but we can forget that this world is not our home. Herod forgot this truth and he fought like hell (literally) to hold on to the fleeting power of an earthly king.

Finally, the three kings arrive at the Baby Jesus. The opposite of Herod, this King is present to them humbly as a Baby. They lay down their gifts before Him. We must also lay down our lives to Him. He have to ask Him to enlighten our minds. We must ask Him to fill us with a deep appetite for holiness. And we must beg Him to make our wills conform with His so that not our wills but His be done.

How can we know if we have truly entered into relationship with the Child King? We can see it if our lives are truly different. Notice how the three kings left home and returned by another road. If we say we know Jesus, but we are still walking the same path as before, then perhaps we have not really encountered Him. Those who have truly met the Lord can usually mark the difference in their life’s path.

And the three kings must choose between Herod or Jesus. There is no in between. Herod wishes to destroy the power of Jesus with the sword. Jesus wishes to destroy the power of Herod with the cross. In the end, one kingdom will be vanquished and one will remain triumphant. We must decide to which king we will bow.

Will you worship the king in yourself? Will you worship the king of the world? Or will you worship the King of Kings?

Copyright 2019, WL Grayson

W.L. Grayson

W.L. Grayson

I am a devoutly Catholic theology teacher who loves a popular culture that often, quite frankly, hates me. I grew up absorbing every movie, TV show, comic book, science fiction novel, etc. I could find. As of today I’ve watched over 2100 movies and tv shows. They take up a huge part of my life. I don’t know that this is a good thing, but it has given me a common vocabulary to draw from in order to illustrate whatever theological point I make in class. I’ve used American Pie the song to explain the Book of Revelation (I’ll post on this some time later) and American Pie the movie to help explain Eucharist (don’t ask). The point is that the popular culture is popular for a reason. It is woven into the fabric of our lives and imaginations, for good or ill. In this blog I will attempt to bring together the things of heaven with the things of earth. Of course this goal may be too lofty for someone like me.

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