The Wise Still Seek Him
Overview of all the workshops in this set of lessons:
(This set of lessons was divided up by grade level/age - younger and older.)
For 1st- 3rd graders:
- Storytelling: Hear the story from the book Mary’s Treasure Box. Experience touching & smelling items from Mary’s box of "treasured items." Students will fill their own smaller version of a treasure box to take home.
Member Reviews/Adaptations/Comments on the Storytelling lesson:
- In the "Left-Right Game" used in this lesson, a very talented teacher had wood-burned an art scene of Bethlehem onto the lid of each child's box — as a keepsake.
- Ruth Kearley posted: we brought in our wool ... unwashed, with the barnyard smell still clinging to it!
- Games: Learn story details; Play a game of Bible bowling.
- Video: Watch portions of the animated video The Very First Noel (2006)
For 4th-6th graders:
- Art: Create stars from paper.
- Cooking: Make star-shaped no-bake cookies.
- Drama: Pantomime the story using a shadow screen.
Also included, are the workshops we used when we first did this Rotation in 2002. (Note that the scripture references and objectives were different for this older set of workshops. We are always updating our lessons when we use them for the 2nd and 3rd time around!)
- Games: Play a variety of games to learn story details & experience being a refugee.
Member "Tramseyer" posted: loved the interruption/journeying/new room idea.
- Music: Learn story details.
- Video: Theories on the Star of Bethlehem. (for older students)
Key/Memory Verse: “ “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east, and have come to worship him.” Matthew 2:2 (NIV)
At the end of the Rotation, participants should be able to:
- Name that the story is found in the New Testament.
- (For 3rd grade and up) Locate the story in the Gospel of Matthew. Identify the four Gospels.
- Re-tell (in his/her own words) the story of the wisemen, including certain story facts: the number of wisemen is uncertain; they visited Jesus as a child — not as a baby. When they found him they bowed down and worshipped him and gave him precious gifts.
- Describe how the wisemen were seeking Jesus and were led by a star.
- Discuss how we seek Jesus. God reaches out to us to lead us, even before we are aware of it (prevenient grace).
- Recognize what a gift God has given us – his son Jesus. Discover how we can respond by sharing our gifts.
Our Advent Rotation focuses on the wisemen. Perhaps by concentrating on what really is an Epiphany story, we are a bit out of season but we’ll use the story of the wisemen as a different window to the birth story of Jesus. Children are probably very familiar with the story yet are likely to learn new facts. Along with many adults, they may be surprised to learn that:
- The Bible doesn’t talk about the number of wise men.
- The wise men were probably not kings.
- They didn’t visit baby Jesus in the manger with the shepherds (how many of our crÈche scenes are incorrect!)
This background material has been prepared to help you teach the story to children and to set straight holiday traditions vs. Biblical truth.
Epiphany: literally means manifestation or appearance. The day of Epiphany itself, which western Christians celebrate on January 6th, is the day that commemorates the visit of the Wise Men. During the season of Epiphany, which stretches until Ash Wednesday, God is made manifest (made obvious) through the flesh and blood presence of his son, Jesus, on earth.
Magi: the same as wise men. Probably were not kings but students of the stars, astrologers. They probably were from Persia (today’s Iran) or Arabia. The Bible does not say there were three! We assume there were three because of the three gifts mentioned. The names of the magi – Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthazar – were given to them in the sixth century. A long time after the gospels were written!
It is important to note that these wisemen were not Jews. In seeking Jesus and worshiping him, we are reminded that Jesus came for all people.
The magi were learned-men. Even though they weren’t Jewish they obviously knew Old Testament prophecy.
What Old Testament prophecy?
A prophecy is a prediction of a future event. From the beginning, God had promised his people that he would send them a king to save them. That king would be a descendant of Abraham and King David and would be born in Bethlehem. The prophet Micah spoke of this saying, “But as for you, Bethlehem. . . from you one will go forth for me to be ruler of Israel.” (Micah 5:2) The Israelites had been holding onto God’s promise for hundreds of years, through many generations. They were watching and waiting in anticipation for the arrival of their king.
What about that star?
Meanwhile, the magi were studying the stars. They saw something that caused them excitement! It’s likely that is wasn’t any large, bright event that everyone noticed. Indeed it seems that only the Magi knew about it. (Herod didn’t see it, nor did apparently the shepherds). We have this fanciful image of a picturesque, bright star, but there is no scriptural evidence for such a scene. (For more info on the “Star of Bethlehem” and a possible scientific explanation, see the last two websites listed in the references below.)
At that time in history, stars were often associated with royal events. (All great kings at that time had stars associated with their nativity.) Could what the wisemen observed mean that the King of the Jews had come? The wisemen were excited enough about this event to check it out. They wanted to worship this new king.
When did the wise men visit?
Their journey likely was long and they arrived many months, if not years after Jesus’ birth. Therefore, they did not show up at the manger. The text makes it clear that they came to the "house" (see Matthew 2:11). By the time these wisemen got to Jesus, he had grown and could have been up to two years old.
The wisemen journeyed to Jerusalem, and expecting to find a king, inquired at Herod’s. (Who better to ask about the next king, than the current king?!) The wise men asked, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” (Matthew 2:2)
What was Herod’s reaction?
Herod was frightened by what the wise men asked. He feared a rival king and plotted how to protect himself. It’s obvious he hadn’t seen any star. In verse 7 he secretly asks the wise men what time the star had appeared. Then he requested that he be told where the child is found so he too could pay him homage! (In verse 16 we see Herod’s real response when he learns he’s been tricked – he orders all children two years or younger to be killed.)
After leaving Herod how did the wise men find the Christ?
The star that they had seen appeared again and led them. When they found Jesus they worshiped him and offered him gifts.
What about those gifts?
Gold: A befitting gift for a king.
Frankincense: Incense used in the Temple (burned to honor God), distilled from tree sap.
Myrrh: Also an aromatic tree sap, used to prepare a body for burial.
Then what happened?
The wise men were warned in a dream not to return to Herod, that Herod meant the child harm. Jesus was spared because Joseph was warned in a dream to flee to Egypt. Thus as a young-age Jesus became a refugee. (A refugee is someone seeking shelter from something threatening, often by going to a foreign country). After Herod’s death, Joseph experienced another angelic visit. The family returns to Galilee to live in the town of Nazareth.
The story of the magi is only found in Matthew’s gospel.
Barclay, William. The Gospel of Matthew. pp14-25, Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1958.
- Bucher, Richard P. “Who Were the Magi?”http://www.beliefnet.com/Faith...o-Were-The-Magi.aspx
- Comay, Joan and Ronald Brownrigg. Who’s Who in The Bible. New York: Bonanza Books, 1980.
- Guzik, David. “David Guzik’s Commentaries on the Bible: Matthew.” 2008. https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/matthew-2/
- iLumina Gold Premium. CD-ROM. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 2006
- Patterson, Bob E. Discovering Matthew. New York: Guidepost Books, 1985.
A Lesson Set written by folks from: First United Methodist Church
Ann Arbor, MI
Copyright 2002, 2008 First United Methodist Church, Ann Arbor, MI.
Permission to copy materials granted for non-commercial use provided credit is given and all cited references remain with this material.