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Words and Music: John Henry Hopkins (1820-1891)

[all]
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.

[Melchior]
Born a King on Bethlehem's plain,
Gold I bring to crown Him again
King for ever, ceasing never
over us all to reign.

[all]
O star of wonder, star of night,
star with royal beauty bright.
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect light.

[Casper]
Frankincense to offer have I,
incense owns a Deity nigh
Prayer and praising, all men raising,
Worship Him, God most high.

[all]
O star of wonder, star of night,
star with royal beauty bright.
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect light.

[Balthazar]
Myrrh is mine,
its bitter perfume breathes
a life of gathering gloom.
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,
sealed in the stone cold tomb.

[all]
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!
Al-le-lu-ia, al-le-lu-ia,
heaven to earth replies.

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

Of the several Christmas carols written by the an Rev. John Henry Hopkins Jr., "We Three Kings" is his best one. Although composed in the 19th century, its style and mixture of modes have led a number of hymnologists to believe it is of medieval origin and consider Hopkins as the "arranger. Even though the Bible speaks of "wise men from the East" who journeyed from the East to worship the newborn King (see Matthew 2:1,7,16), because it doesn't specifically say that these travelers were kings, some people were hesitant to receive "We Three Kings" as a genuine Christmas carol when it was composed in 1857 and first printed in 1859. But this point of controversy didn't prevent Hopkins from writing his carol about the visit of the wise men, whether they were actually kings, astrologers or philosophers. While the Gospel of Matthew makes no reference to the names, the number, or even the royalty of the kings, the details have come down to us through legend and tradition. The three names traditionally given to the kings - Caspar, Melchior and Baithasar, who read and knew the movements of the stars (see Matthew 2:2) were chosen somewhere along the way, we don't know by whom or where. And why three wise men? This number was selected, no doubt, because of the three special gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh, as each man brought one precious gift to lay at the feet of Jesus.

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