The Magi and the Star

We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar…

Happy Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord! It is on this day that we remember the magi arriving to greet the newborn King of the Jews. Let’s take a look at this event from the Gospel of Matthew, with help from Cale Clarke, host of The Cale Clarke Show.

“When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” – Matthew 2:1-2

We hear the magi called by different names—three wise men, the three kings. Who were they really? “Some people think they’re magicians, but not in the sense of illusionists—they were probably astronomers. They may have come from Chaldea … they might have even been pagan priests. Ancient writers said there were often people like this who would observe and try to understand strange phenomena that occurred in the heavens. The Chaldeans were very famous in antiquity for their knowledge of what was called magic and astrology,” explained Cale. It is also possible that these three men were kings or representatives of kings—we just don’t know for sure.

“They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” – Matthew 2:10-11

What is the meaning of the gifts they bring—gold, frankincense, and myrrh? These are the same three gifts given to King Solomon in Psalm 72. “Matthew sees this as a fulfillment of an Old Testament type, where Solomon, the son of David, the king, gets tribute from all the nations. We see Jesus, who is also a son of David, according to Matthew, getting tribute from the kings of the earth,” said Cale.

The Star

What was this star they were following that pointed them to Bethlehem where Jesus had been born? There are several celestial phenomena that could have created the famous Star of Bethlehem. In 3 BC there was an alignment of the planets Venus and Saturn, and in 7 BC there was an alignment of Jupiter and Saturn. “That would have created what looked to the human eye and a not-so-powerful telescope to be a star of unusual brightness,” Cale explained. Truly, we don’t really know what it was; it could have been any number of things.

This Epiphany, let’s follow the example of the magi in paying homage to our King. What gifts can we offer to Him? How might we honor Him today and throughout the year?

Listen to more from the conversation:

Tune in to The Cale Clarke Show weekdays at 5-6pm CT only on Relevant Radio®.

Lindsey is a wife, mother, and contributing author at Relevant Radio. She holds a degree in Journalism and Advertising from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Lindsey enjoys writing, baking, and liturgical living with her young family.