Famous Christmas Carols – Story Behind the Carol – “We Three Kings of Orient Are”


Of all the Christmas Carols written, “We Three Kings” is possibly the most worshipful of the Christ child. This is fitting when one considers that the men who have come to be known as the “wise men” are the first people in the New Testament who actually are said to have worshiped Jesus.

The Bible doesn’t say how many men came from the Orient, but because three gifts were mentioned, legend has grown that there were three. The Bible says:

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.”…When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. Matthew 2:1-2, 9-11

As for the carol:

The famous American carol ‘We three Kings of Orient Are’ was written in 1857 by Rev. John Henry Hopkins. The minister is reputed to have written the carol ‘We three Kings of Orient Are’ for the General Theological Seminary in New York City as part of their Christmas pageant. The lyrics of ‘We three Kings of Orient Are’ are extremely traditional.

The carol “We Three Kings of Orient Are” is a carol that has as its name the first line of the song.

The gifts the wise men from the East brought were fitting for the King and for the Christ.  ‘Got Questions?’ gives a clear explanation of why these gifts were chosen which includes the following:

The gift of gold to the Christ child was symbolic of His divinity—God in flesh. The gift of frankincense to the Christ child was symbolic of His willingness to become a sacrifice, wholly giving Himself up, analogous to a burnt offering. Myrrh symbolizes bitterness, suffering, and affliction. The baby Jesus would grow to suffer greatly as a man and would pay the ultimate price when He gave His life on the cross for all who would believe in Him.

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

O Star of wonder, star of night
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

O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to Thy perfect light

Frankincense to offer have I
Incense owns a Deity nigh
Prayer and praising, all men raising
Worship Him, God most high

O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to Thy perfect light

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

O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to Thy perfect light

Glorious now behold Him arise
King and God and Sacrifice
Hallelujah , Hallelujah 
Earth to heav’n replies

O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to Thy perfect light

MERRY CHRISTMAS

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About jlue

I am a grandmother of seven and I like to garden, read, study the Bible, and spend time with family. I am not very politically active, but very interested in who is elected to lead our country.
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2 Responses to Famous Christmas Carols – Story Behind the Carol – “We Three Kings of Orient Are”

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