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This topic is for posting lesson ideas and resources related to celebrating EPIPHANY, aka, "Three Kings Day." 

If you're looking for the Matthew 2 Magi story, go to our Magi ~ Wisemen forum.


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epiphanyEpiphany's historic date is January 6th, which is exactly 12 days after Christmas. As many Holy Days have moved to the nearest Sunday in modern Protestantism,  "Epiphany Sunday" became the first Sunday AFTER January 6th, unless Epiphany falls on January 6th.

Epiphany celebrates the three wise men's visit to baby Jesus and also remembers his baptism. "Epiphany" is a Greek word meaning "appearance" or "revealing."  Scholars believe that Epiphany was originally conceived to celebrate Jesus' baptism --the inauguration of his ministry, and later became three kings day. Learn more

The 12 Days of Christmas start on Christmas Day and last until the evening of the 5th January - also known as Twelfth Night. The 12 Days have been celebrated in Europe since before the middle ages and were a time of celebration. Each day of the 12 day celebration honored a "saint." Some of their stories are very interesting. Learn more about the 12 Days of Christmas.

Epiphany marks the end of the Christmas season and the beginning of the season of Epiphany which precedes Lent. 

Epiphany Sunday is also a traditional time to remove Christmas decorations, give gifts, and bless homes.

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Here's a fun Epiphany children's sermon from my personal archive. This could be a drama lesson too with a little scripting along the lines of "what is there behind the Epiphany blanket to discover?"

Epiphany Children's Sermon 

Shout it Out Loud!

by Rev. Neil MacQueen

Epiphany Sunday is first Sunday after January 6th -which is the traditional date of Epiphany. Often it is called “Three Kings Day.”  In this children’s sermon, we’re going to focus on the word “Epiphany” through a fun demonstration.  Preparation, your energy, and clue-ing in a few older kids is the key.

Your Basic Point:
Epiphany means “insight” or “revelation” …but those words are too hard for kids. Instead, we’re going to use “exciting discovery you want to tell others about.”  Jesus’ parents, the shepherds, and the Kings made an exciting discovery and wanted to tell others. We do too (i.e. share the Epiphany).

Preparation:

Ahead of time, pin a posterboard to a very large heavy blanket and write this sentence on it" "As soon as you read this SHOUT the WORD “AWESOME!” 

Also ahead of time, write on the flip side of the sign the sentence: When  "Jesus is our King"

Also ahead of time, tell one of your children that they are going to be "in on the joke." They will get to "go first" to see behind a blanket, and when they do, they will see the sign that says, "Awesome" and should shout it out loud when they do.

Go over this children’s sermon with two teens who will be holding the blanket. Tell them to prompt the kids going behind the blanket to do the shouting (in case any are shy) and to shout with them!

Here’s how to present this:

After welcoming the kids, invite your two teens to stand to the side holding the heavy blanket like a wall so that the kids and congregation cannot see the posterboard pinned to the back of it. (Update: The second time I did this we attached the word "Epiphany" to the front of the blanket for all to see.)

Tell them about Epiphany and that it means "surprise" or "revealing." Then tell them you have a surprise for them behind the blanket, and that you're going to let them all go see it, one by one, and that when they do, they get to stay behind the blanket.

Next, invite your "pre-picked" student to go behind the blanket, see the sign, and shout Awesome! as you have pre-arranged. Then, one by one invite the seated younger children to go stand behind the blanket. 

As you send the kids one-by-one behind the blanket, they stay back there until everyone is behind the blanket.  As you hear each kid shout, talk to the other kids about what could be so exciting.

Once all the kids are behind the blanket, go with them and stir it up a bit. Ask the kids “What’s so exciting back here? What have you discovered?”  

…At that question, have your student helper FLIP OVER card on which you have written in big letters: “When I say shout, I want you to Shout Together as loud as you can: JESUS IS OUR KING!!”  (You need to quietly whisper the instruction for non-readers.)  

Now say "shout" to them and point to the words on the card, "Jesus is our King!"

Say, "I can't hear you," and point to the words again. Shout it a third time. 

Now have your helpers drop the blanket. As they do this, the kids will have big smiles on their faces, as will the congregation.

You can provide some concluding remarks now, or use this EXTRA part. I did it the second time I used this children's sermon and it went over big:

Split up the kids, half in front of one side of the congregation, and half in front of the other side to lead a cheer. The first half shouts: "Jesus is Our King" and the second half shouts, "Awesome!" Do that a couple of times and have fun with it.

They will shout it out loud, guaranteed!  

Wrap it up by saying, “The gift Jesus wants from us, is to not HIDE our love for him. Now you could shout about it, but that would get pretty annoying very quick!   So here's the idea:  Instead of shouting your faith with words, I want you to...

  • PUMP UP THE VOLUME on your love and generosity,
  • PUMP UP your compassion and care for each other,
  • PUMP UP your worship attendance, really make it SCREAM!
  • and do a gigantic HUGE SILENT SHOUT by spending time in prayer and reading the bible.

Those are the kinds of "wise and loud gifts" Jesus would really like.

AMEN? --- I can't hear you.  AMEN???  (Wait until they shout AMEN!!!)

(Note: This is what I "approximately" said, as I wrote this down afterward. Feel free to word monger it.)

Celebrate Epiphany by making “King Cakes”

kingcakeKing Cakes are heavily cinnamon bread cakes that are decorated to represent the 3 kings and their gifts, then exchanged and shared with gusto!  It's traditional to put a food-grade baby Jesus somewhere in the dough and hope to be the one who finds it in their slice. I'd make sure EACH of my kids "got Jesus."

This tradition is not widely known outside of New Orleans and parts of the South. They are very popular in Mexico.

For more on this tasty lesson idea, wiki “King Cakes.”  

Tip: Use pre-made dough and make loaves smaller/flatter so that they bake faster on Sunday morning. Shop online for baking “jewels” and edible gold dust (and such) to make the loaves special.

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The Wandering Wisemen, celebrity fictional characters on Facebook, begin annually on the first day of Advent and conclude their journey to find the Christ child on Epiphany.

Slightly different each year, these charming Playmobil characters find themselves trying to understand the local culture, food, and antics of Hezekiah (their beloved camel) during their trip around an anonymous pastor's home, on their journey to find the new king.

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If you haven't joined in this journey, it's worth the time to experience their adventure and share with your friends young and old alike!! 

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"The Other Wiseman" by Henry Van Dyke
aka, "The Fourth Wiseman"   

The wonderful story of the other wiseman who was too busy helping others to join his friends on their journey. He misses giving his gift to the baby Jesus but spends his life serving others and giving away his gift. He finally meets the adult Jesus on his way to the cross.

Henry Van Dyke was a famous 19th Century Presbyterian preacher. 

Two Video Versions:

The Fourth Wiseman, 1985, a little over an hour long. Stars Martin Sheen as the wiseman and Alan Arkin as his servant. A terrific movie. Available for purchase at your favorite online retailer. Here's a full preview of it on YouTube:

 "The Story of the Other Wiseman, 1989. 24 minutes. Here's an animated version of the story (which is in the public domain) produced a number of years ago for the LDS Church. Nothing LDS about it.  YouTube:

Last edited by Luanne Payne

Epiphany Sunday

We kicked off Epiphany in gathering time by talking about the Twelve Days of Christmas song and its symbolism and singing a fun version of the song with motions.

We then watched a short movie clip about the Magi and Joseph's dream from the "Book of Matthew" and discussed the wisemen's journey.

For our activity, we played a hybrid relay/minute to win it following the birth of Jesus to Epiphany. 

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First race: The first group of Mary, Joseph and a donkey had to dress in costume, run to the opposite end, look inside our "blocks" (spray painted coolers we use for many things) to find the baby Jesus, use the blocks to build a stable and sit inside.  

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Second race: The angels (with halos) had to pass a balloon with "Good Tidings of Great Joy" over and under, running around to the back, until they reached the shepherds at the other end. A shepherd had to sit on the balloon to pop it. 

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Third Race: The shepherds had get on their hands and knees, hold a candy cane in each hand, and blow their cotton ball sheep on the floor across the gym to the manger.

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Fourth Race: King Herod had to walk with arms folded and a balloon in his crown to the other end and while he did this Mary, Joseph and donkey had to take their stable down and build it into a house (a one level square around them).

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Fifth Race: The three wisemen had to search in a bowl of beans for three "gifts" (sugar cubes). They then had each carry their gift on a craft stick held in their mouth and drop it in the bowl at the house.

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We ended with King Cake-colored cupcakes - each one had a baby inside.

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More lessons and ideas relating to the three wise men can be found here: Jesus' Birth through the Eyes of Wisemen, Magi.

And be sure to check out the Writing Teams lesson set: The Magi, six uniquely creative workshop-style lessons on the Matthew 2:1-12 story. Each emphasizes important life applications. Everyone can read the Lesson Summaries and Bible Background. As usual, the lesson plans themselves are only open to our awesome Supporting Members who make this set and site possible.  

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Check out the great suggestions for Epiphany in this blog posting: https://buildfaith.org/epiphan...rces-ideas-churches/  While these ideas are written for worship celebrations, some can be adapted for use in Sunday school settings. The photo booth idea in particular would work well in a classroom. Take digital photos and add captions from your conversation about "what gift would you bring Jesus?"

Here are suggestions for an Epiphany party, including King Cake. 

And links to more Epiphany suggestions: https://buildfaith.org/category/epiphany/. Be sure to come back here and let us know how you adapt these ideas in your classroom!!  

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