We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts, we traverse afar
Field and fountain
Moor and mountain
Following yonder star
Yes, OK, no evidence there were three (though, one does wonder, why one or more of them turned up without a gift). But there is a view that reckons these kings (however many of them there were) were coming from Iraq, Iran, Yemen or Saudi Arabia. If you go with the Armenian tradition, one was from Saudi, one was Persian and the other from India. But there does seem to be some consensus that at least one Iranian was knocking around.
What is clearer is that these three Magi had come from a long way to worship Christ. However far to the East they were, it is evident that they hadn’t just nipped round the corner to see the Christ-child. They had come some distance, and gone to some considerable effort, to worship this newborn king.
Many of us have not had to travel all that far to worship King Jesus. Some of us have come from Christian homes, born and raised in the church in an Evangelicalism that has comfortably located itself within the English culture that we come from. There is neither a great geographical nor spiritual journey for some of us to worship this king.
Others have travelled considerably further. I am frequently reminded of this as I look out on my multicultural, multiethnic church. Whilst we have a number of Caribbeans who, whilst travelling some geographical distance to meet Jesus, had a shorter spiritual journey than many given their cultural heritage (and some of them, much like the English in our church, become believers in their home country and thus didn’t have far to travel in any sense at all to bow the knee before Christ).
But we have Persians, Afghans, Kurds and others in our midst who have travelled some considerable distance to find Christ, both physically and spiritually. They have come from countries with no Christian heritage – often places where Christianity is overtly prohibited – and thus never encountered Christ as he is. It is only as they make an often treacherous journey to the UK from the East, and the similarly hazardous journey away from being a known disciple of Mohammad, that they are able to encounter the Biblical Jesus.
But the truth is, even many Brits – despite the culture Christian heritage we enjoy – are as far from knowing the Jesus of scripture as any Middle-Eastern Muslim. Yes, their journey may require no physical or geographical upheaval to encounter him as he is presented, but that does nothing to undercut the yawning chasm there is between their knowing the name of Christ (and usually as little more than a swear word) and knowing anything about him or their need of him. It may not need a treacherous physical journey to encounter him, but there are many obstacles to their coming to know him nonetheless.
Everyone has a journey to make. For some it is both physical and spiritual, others it is only that difficult journey from head to heart. But everyone has to travel somewhere to worship King Jesus. The question for those of us that know and love him already is this: how will we help them to get there?