Still Proceeding - 'We Three Kings' Reconsidered
December 11, 2021
Admittedly, I have occasionally rolled my eyes at the carol, We Three Kings. It’s hard to break away from memories of three of the goofiest guys in a church coming together and acting out this song as if they are singing, “Yo, ho, ho, ho, a pirate’s life for me.” The tune's meter and mode accentuate this silliness. While this scene brings a smile to my face, I never thought of this carol as meaningful.
That’s why I was surprised when a couple of lines from the carol uniquely, spiritually, and theologically stood out this year. For instance, “King forever, ceasing never, over us all to reign.”
Only twice in Matthew’s gospel is Jesus identified as king (2:2 and 27:29). One of those places is with the visit of the Magi. What’s interesting is that there is a sense that Jesus doesn’t become king until he is resurrected. Nevertheless, the Magi give us this understanding early in the gospels—Jesus is King. C.S. Lewis reminds us that in the incarnation the “rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us to take part in the great campaign of sabotage.” (Mere Christianity, 51). It seems like the Magi get the King’s campaign started.
The second part of this hymn that strikes me is the line, “Westward leading still proceeding, guide us to thy perfect light.”
This carol and the Magi’s witness present us with a perspective that comes post-resurrection and post-ascension as it declares that Jesus is at the right hand of the Father still working and “still proceeding.” Jesus is still active and moving. When we think he is distant, the incarnation, tells us Jesus is still available for us. He is available as King. Tom Oden says he is “active in his office of cosmic governance.” (The Word of Life, 280).
It seems like other Advent hymn writers picked up this theme as well:
“…let earth receive her king…”
“….Worship Christ the newborn king…”
“All our costliest treasures bring, Christ, to thee, our heavenly king…”
“Hark the herald angels sing, glory to the newborn king…”
Advent reminds us that the King has come, and the King is leading and proceeding for us!
Jesus, we thank you that you are “King forever” and that your light is “still proceeding” for us. Would you proceed for me today? Amen