Did you know that Kings Day is in January? No, not MLK Day, celebrated in most American states on the third Monday in January. I’m referring to the January 6 holiday also known as the Day of Kings.
From church history, the day celebrates the biblical story of wise men traveling from the east, bearing gifts for the Christ-child. In my family, Kings Day was just the day my mother took down the Christmas tree. In her Southern holiday tradition, linked loosely with certain Scottish and English traditions, that day marked the end of the 25 days of Christmas. The end of the holidays.
But to many other people of faith in the world, Kings Day is not an end. In fact, it shines the light on a beginning. The three wise men, or Magi, celebrated on Kings Day were most likely contemporaries, studying the stars together. They were men of the same country and of the same race. In the U.S., the wise men are usually from three distinct races–European, African, and Asian. From what I can tell, this curious depiction is an American invention. Was it an an early attempt at social engineering or racial inclusion. Who knows? Maybe it was only wishful thinking–an if only we could just be this way all year long?
As a child, I found it easy to accept the integrated group bearing gifts. The tall Moorish king in his finery and fancy words was the highlight of “The Little Drummer Boy.” In my little girl frame of mind, he didn’t seem like a token, the only black in the Christmas story. I took him into my Christmas tradition, however incorrect, far quicker than I did the fat white guy coming down our chimney with a pack of toys on his back. We kids knew that was never gonna happen. White folks didn’t come “over the river” and we didn’t even have a chimney.
I wonder now, as I sit down at my keyboard listening to strains of the “The Little Drummer Boy” in the background, what would a contemporary “three kings” story look like? Would we still need for there to be a black in the number? I think, yes. Just as we need someone of every shade and hue in the body of Christ, walking in unique oneness together, speaking volumes without words of His wisdom and grace.