Following Yonder Star
John H. Hopkins, Jr. (1820-1891) was an Episcopal priest, theologian, musician, and teacher. He was an instructor in church music at General Theological Seminary in New York City and later became a rector in several Episcopal churches. He wrote the hymn “We Three Kings” in 1857 for his nieces and nephews as an Epiphany gift to help them never forget the first gifts brought to the Christ-child.
We Three Kings
We three kings of Orient are;
bearing gifts we traverse afar;
field and fountain, moor and mountain,
following yonder star.
Frankincense to offer have I;
incense owns a Deity nigh;
prayer and praising, voices raising,
worshiping God on high.
O star of wonder, star of light
star with royal beauty bright,
westward leading, still proceeding,
guide us to thy perfect light.
Myrrh is mine; its bitter perfume
breathes a life of gathering gloom;
sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,
sealed in the stone-cold tomb.
Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain
gold I bring to crown him again,
King forever, ceasing never,
over us all to reign.
Glorious now behold him arise;
King and God and sacrifice;
sounds through the earth and skies.
– John H. Hopkins, Jr., 1857
This hymn tells the story of the appearance of the wise men at the Bethlehem stable, but it also relates the story of Christ’s journey from the manger to the resurrection. Note that gold is a symbol of Jesus as King; frankincense is a symbol of the divinity and ministry of Jesus; and myrrh is given as the symbol of his death. The last stanza reflects the resurrection with alleluias resounding throughout the world.
How is the Bethlehem star a symbol of your life with Jesus? If you had been with the wise men, what would you have brought to Jesus and why? As stated above, the hymn was written for Epiphany. What significance does Epiphany have for you? What epiphanies, unexpected events, have you experienced because of the coming of the Christ?
Keep following the star during the new year!
Joyce D. Sohl, Laywoman-in-Residence
Joyce D. Sohl has been Laywoman-in-Residence since 2009 as a full-time volunteer. She retired as CEO of United Methodist Women in 2004. She is the author of 4 books, a teacher, retreat leader, writer and non-professional musician. Here at the Center her work is in the area of Spirituality & the Arts with such programs as Tuesdays in the Chapel, Vespers & All That Jazz, Poet’s Corner, quarterly retreats, and art exhibits.