Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Church Matters

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Church Matters

Article excerpt

Byline: By Francis Wood

The men of MYSTERY

So Christmas is nearly over. Yes, I know there are two more days but the shepherds have gone back to the hills, the innkeeper is cleaning up the mess in the pub while Mary and Joseph get ready to leave for Egypt. On Tuesday the three Wise Men are due to call with their gifts and it'll be over for another year.

We are left with a problem. Who were those mysterious visitors, the Wise Men? St Matthew in his Gospel hardly makes it clear. He doesn't even say that there were three. There could have been dozens. As for them being kings, there is no mention. He calls them "magi" that is magicians. And did they ever come to the stable? Matthew says they found the holy family in a house.

Yet of all the parts of the Christmas Story, the favourite is the visit of the three Kings. It has colour, surprise and drama. Down the centuries, Christians have loved it. They were first called Kings in the 2nd Century and they were even given names, Kaspar, Melchior and Balthazar. They had black, white and yellow skins but it was the 10th century before they wore crowns on their heads. The Empress Helena claimed to have found their relics, which are now kept in a fine reliquary in Cologne Cathedral.

The Epiphany has given rise to many ceremonies. On Tuesday the Queen will offer gold and frankincense and myrrh at the altar of the Chapel Royal. Tomorrow evening at Holy Trinity, Seghill, the same three gifts will be offered at the Christmas Crib. In Austria, villagers dressed as kings go from house to house greeting people and receiving hospitality. To show that a house has been visited they sign their initials, "K.M.B." over the door. And in the Eastern Churches, the feast of the Epiphany marks the beginning of the Christmas celebration.

Do the details of the story really matter? I think not. The point of the story is that the Christ child was born for all people, whatever the colour of skin. …

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