Miscellaneous Lessons, Ideas, Activities, and Resources for Teaching about the Magi, Wisemen, Star of Bethlehem

Three Kings, Magi, Wisemen, Gold, Frankincense, Myrrh, Star of Bethlehem, Matthew 2:1-18, Herod, Jesus' birth, etc.

 You may also find some great ideas in our Epiphany, Three Kings Day forum.

Original Post

Editor's Note:
This post was originally made in response to a question about "making stars" to put in a classroom and on an art project.

Your MISC Workshop Ideas and Resources for teaching about the Wisemen/Magi ideas are welcome.


Star Ideas

The lesson theme: "Stars Still Lead Us"

  • Who and What are the Stars today who point us to Christ?
  • How do WE shine a light on Christ in a dark world?
  • How do we reflect Christ's light?
  • What's trying to block the light? Distract us?

Misc Ideas for making and displaying stars

In addition to being a small activity, this idea can also grow into a "Star walk through" area in a classroom or church hallway -become a display for all students or the entire church to enjoy and ponder.  The following is a running list of ideas, many of which could be combined to create a star trail, or simply be used for a classroom activity/display.

  • Peel and stick glow-in-the-dark stars
  • Glow in the dark paint stenciled with star sponges.
  • Foil covered stars that pick up the light.
  • Star Shower (popular Christmas lights device) shining in a special hallway decorated with shiny "stars" (foil framed pics of kids, words from the story, etc).
  • Poke holes in cardboard and stick tiny Xmas lights through them to spell words or outline shapes.
  • If you have removable ceiling panels in your classroom or hallways, you can buy extra panels and decorate them using florescent paints to get people to "look up."
  • Xmas lights can be laid on the floor -with a path through them for people to walk "above the stars" to see the true star.
  • People can be stars...if they point us to Christ. Create 'star plaques' painted with florescent paints and glitter, and fix pictures of church leaders to present as gifts to those who "Lead Us to Christ."
  • Paint with "glow in the dark" Magi Skies using acrylic paints on flexible clear plastic (the kind in a shower curtain). These can be hung in children's bedrooms. Include designs, gifts, message, scripture. Use hole punch on corners to attach string for hanging.
  • A display to "see yourself as a star for Christ:"  At the end of the hallway is a large box with a hole to put your head through. On the inside of the box is a mirror so you can see your face. The box has a light inside it. Shiny tin foil lines the inside of the box where you put your head through it. A sign above the hole is visible only when you look inside and reads: "How can you be a shining light for Christ?" ...and suggests several answers.






starshower"Star Shower" device beams a variety of patterns/star effects. Cover certain shapes and words, like "Messiah" or "Hope" with tin foil and place on the ceiling so that they glimmer extra bright when the Star Shower hits them.

Feel free to add your ideas!

<>< Neil

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Storybooks

  • The Visit of the Wise Men By: Martha Jander, Lin Wang, Concordia, 2007, Hardcover, OUT OR PRINT - can be found currently (Dec. 2011) on sale in some Christian stores for $3.99 (CDN). So grab it while you can!  Note: Pictures are lovely and the story is nicely done. Book is 10 x 9 inches.

  • The Fourth King by Ted Sieger, Candlewick Press, 2006, 0763631213.
    From the Publisher: A kindhearted king plays a bigger role in the Nativity than he realizes in this ode to unsung heroes everywhere. Once upon a time, three kings came out of a distant land and followed a star across the desert. You may know them as the Wise Men, or perhaps the magi-bearers of gold, frankincense, and myrrh for a newborn child. What few know is that another king set out on the long and difficult journey, a king named Mazzel who, unlike the well-sung trio, arrived too late and empty-handed. First there was the frightened nomad girl who needed rescuing from a sandstorm, then the lost merchant caravan in need of a guide, and more crises along the route. What was Mazzel to do? Based on the short story "The Other Wise Man" by Henry Van Dyke.

  • Humphrey's First Christmas, By: Carol Heyer, Ideals Publications Inc / 2007 / Hardcover / 9780824955595.
    Told from the perspective of Humphrey the camel. Gorgeous real-life drawings, each page is amazing. Humphrey's cold and has lost his blanket. He does everything he can to get his master's attention and in the end realizes the best thing of all is a baby in a stable who he gives his blanket to.

  • "The Third Gift" by Linda Sue Park and Bagram Ibatoulline (Illustrator), Clarion Books, 2011, Hardcover, 9780547201955.  Great book about Myrrh for your Wise Men Rotation

    Lovely fictional story of where the Myrrh came from purchased by the Wise Men as a gift for baby Jesus. The story is of a young boy going with his father to harvest "tears" of a resin known as myrrh. During the harvest the boy finds a very large "tear" which is later purchased by the wise men at market. Incredible pictures, but note the story stops after the purchase and the boy "wonders about the baby". "Includes biblical references and historical information about the Magi and myrrh production and usage.

    "Great size for sharing with your class 11.6" L x 9.3" W. To see sample pages check out this link at Christianbook.com

    I recommend you also purchase a bottle of Myrrh (anointing oil) and Myrrh (globlets) in it's original form. Search on-line (Christianbook.com for example.) I found giving the children (of any age) the actual material that they can see it, smell it, and feel it, is an unforgettable experience!

    I made up 3 wooden boxes, containing Myrrh and Frankincense in both forms, original and anointing oil, in their perspective box. The gold box I simply filled with fake gold coins and gold (fake) jewelry. I read them the book "The Visit of the Wise Men" (above), then gave them information I'd found out about what the material was worth then, compared to now. Passed around the boxes and had lots of discussion. The kids and other teachers loved it! Falls in my top 10 favorite workshops of all time, of bringing the bible story to life!

Music

 

Science

  • Any lesson to do with stars or light would be appropriate here. If you have a planetarium in your area, they may have some great information. Also, check this out for information on star watching and navigating by the stars: http://www.skyandtelescope.com...cts-and-experiments/ Posted by MMB

Wise Men

Art / Video Workshop

 

Summary:

They will learn about this through discussion, examination of maps, watching clips from "The Nativity Story" and by creating an Epiphany Star.

 

Scripture:

"When Jesus, therefore, was born in Bethlehem of Judah, in the days of king Herod, behold, there came wise men from the East to Jerusalem, saying: Where is He that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East, and are come to adore Him." (Matt. 2:1-2)

 

Objectives:

  • The students will learn about who the Wise Men were, how they knew about the star and the star phenomenon. 
  • They will learn that the Wise Men's role in the Nativity Story is to demonstrate that Jesus Christ came to all nations and that even the cosmos validated the divinity of Jesus. 

Supplies List:

  • paper, compasses, crayons, baby or mineral oil, cotton balls, paper towels, scissors (for Epiphany Star Art Project)
  • photos illustrating the constellations
  • Map showing terrain Wise Men would have traveled over
  • Wise Man Chart Poster (on Posterboard or chalkboard)
  • Video - "The Nativity Story", Word Entertainment, 2006, 794043106682.

 

Leader Preparation:

  • Familiarize yourself with the lesson script and the information about the constellations.
  • Make a sample of the project so you can show the kids.  And also figure out/test the procedure to make sure you have everything you need as well as the most effective and efficient way to explain it to the kids. FIGURE OUT IF IT'LL BE BEST TO HAVE THE COMPASS CIRCLES ALREADY ON THE PAPER OR IF IT'S SIMPLE ENOUGH TO HAVE THE KIDS DO IT.  For the Sprouts have the star already made on the paper.
  • Collect all the necessary materials.
  • Practice the cues for the movie.
  • Have a diagram drawn on the Chalkboard or make a poster.  You can have the chart filled in ahead of time or add the information as you go over it. 

Wise Men

Magi

Kings

 

The Wise Men had education; knew science, math, how to read and write, how to make calculations, etc. 

"Magi" comes from the word "Magic."  Because of their education and wisdom, people believed that the Magi had special powers.  They could interpret dreams, for example. 

And some people think the Wise Men were Kings of different countries.  They could have been, but if they weren't the actual Kings they represented their King. 

 

Most Pharaohs and Kings would have Wise men who worked for them to help them understand things or give them advice. 

They were Astrologers. In biblical times astrology was an important science.  Astrologers studied the positions of the stars in relation to each other and then interpreted what they found.  To the people, this interpretation seemed like magic.

 

These Kings were from the "Far East".  They represented countries like Persia,and India.  These countries would have different religions, different rules and laws, different ways of life.

Wisemen were highly respected.  If they said that this all happened then people would believe them.  They were very educated about the Hebrew Old Testament Prophecies.  They were religious seekers as well as scientists.

Astrology shows that nature and the cosmos were in agreement with the prophecy.  The astrology shows that the Star of Bethlehem was real and not just a myth.

This is important in the story to show that the message of Jesus Christ (God with us) was meant for all people in all nations.

 



 

Presentation

 

Opening-Welcome and Lesson Introduction:

 

Greet the students warmly and invite them to sit along one side of the table facing the bulletin board and chalk board.  If there are kids you haven't met yet please make sure you learn their names and they learn yours.

 

Scripture reading:  Explain to the kids that the story of the birth of Jesus is written in more than one book of the Bible.  The story about the Wise Men is written in the Gospel of Matthew.  Read Matthew 2: 1-2

 

Dig-Main Content and Reflection:

 

Say: There have been several versions for what we call "The Wise Men".  Aside from "Wise Men" they have been called "The Kings" and "The Magi".

 

Ask:  Which do you think is the correct name? (Let students answer) 

 

Say: Actually, all those names are correct.  In Biblical times people did not have schooling the way we do today.   Most people didn't know how to read or write and knew only the basic facts of math--just what they needed to do their jobs.  In those days people didn't understand a lot about how the world or nature works.  There were a lot of superstitions and they explained things they didn't understand by giving power to different gods and goddesses.  If they needed rain they'd pray to the rain god, etc.

 

Chart--either refer to the chart or fill in the chart

 

The Wise Men, though,  were learned men.   They had education; knew science, math, how to read and write, how to make calculations, etc.  Most Pharaohs and Kings would have Wise, Learned men who worked for them to help them understand things or give them advice.  They had a lot of "Wisdom" which made them men who were wise, or "Wise Men."

 

The Wise Men were also "Magi"--Magi comes from the word "Magic."  Because of their education and wisdom, people believed that the Magi had special powers.  They could interpret dreams, for example.  They were Astrologers. Nowadays when we think of astrology most people think of horoscopes.  Many people think that astrology is something you don't take seriously.  But in biblical times astrology was an important science.  Astronomy observes the stars and learns about them by watching them.  Astrology, though, studies the positions of the stars in relation to each other and then interprets what they find.  To the people, this interpretation seemed like magic.

 

And some people think the Wise Men were Kings of different countries.  They could have been, but if they weren't the actual Kings they represented their King. 

 

Following the Star of Bethlehem:

 

Ask: What does the Bible say the Wise Men did?  (They followed the star to Bethlehem.)  What was the star like? (very bright, stayed over one place) What do you think made the Wise Men think this star was special? (Let them answer, but they may not really know. Several stars and planets came together to make one huge, super bright star)

 

Say:  There is a man by the name of John Webb, Jr. who has done a lot of research.  He has made maps of the stars that show how this actually, really did happen.  John Webb claims that several things happened at the same time.  The positions of the stars create different shapes.  We call them "Constellations".  Constellations are usually separated from each other in the sky.  But at this point in time two constellations came together at the same time, one on top of the other.  This happens only every 40,000,000 (Forty million) years.

 

The Seal of Solomon and the Grand Cross were both present at the same time--one on top of the other.

 

Seal of Solomon.  This shape is called the Seal of Solomon because King Solomon had a ring with two triangles or pyramids.  One points up and the other points down.  The triangles are surrounded by a circle.

 

Grand Cross is another constellation.  The Grand Cross is a diamond shape.  When Venus, Mercury, Saturn and Mars are in a specific relationship to each other this diamond shape is formed.  

 

In this picture you can see the 4 super bright planets that are connected by a blue-ish line.  That is the Grand Cross.

 

So, according to this man, this is the way the stars were actually aligned. 

 

The Wise Men kept looking at the stars and saw that this was going to happen.  They also knew what the Old Testament had said about prophecies and the birth of Jesus.  So they knew that it was going to be a fantastic astrological event but also that it had important meaning.  As the time grew closer for the planets to get into these positions the Wise Men decided to travel to Judea to see if the prophecy was really true--would they find the baby Jesus? 

 

The fact that the Wisemen decided to actually travel to Judea is amazing because they lived so far away.  They had to travel across deserts and over mountains--some people say this would have taken months if not years. 

 

Map: Show the map of the land over which the Wise Men would have traveled. (I made a map that was 8 1/2" X 20" of the middle, near and far east)

 

Show The Movie Clips: 

 

The Nativity Story is a movie that was made in 2006.  It's a pretty accurate depiction of the Biblical story of the birth of Jesus in the time period.  There are several scenes of the Wise Men in this story.  We are going to watch some of them.

 

Outline: The Nativity Story movie (Wisemen section) approx. 13 mins.:

  • 15:10-16:16  Wise men receive the scriptural prophecy and discuss it
  • 27:03- 28:14  Wise men look at the stars in the mirror of water.  They discuss the convergence of Jupiter (the father planet), Venus (the mother planet) and a star called "Sharuh"--a Babylonian name meaning "King" 
  • 30:29-  32:31  planning the journey, going over the map
  • 40:06-41:08  Journey across the desert
  • 49:36-50:04 Across the desert with voice-over of prophecy
  • 1:03:52-1:04:27  Taking measurements of the stars
  • 1:14:27-1:16:00  Arriving in Jerusalem, meeting with Herod
  • 1:18:10 -1:18:37 The stars converge
  • 1:21:07-1:21:24  Watching the star
  • 1:25:34-1:29:45 Arriving in Bethlehem and leaving

 

Movie Discussion:

 

Have the students tell you what they noticed about the Wise Men and their journey. Some points to mention:

  • The instruments they used (the triangle and the pendulum)
  • The way they looked at the stars by using a pool of water as a mirror.
  • The numbers of camels and other people in their caravan--it was not just the 3 men
  • They way the movie shows the planets aligning --going from 3 into one super bright constellation
  • Their race and ethnicity

 

Activity - Creating A Star

 

The art project we used is "Epiphany Stars" by Martha Donley.  Directions can be found on Sunday School Network link

 

 

Cathy adds about this art project. 

After the kids have finished their coloring and outlining with the sharpie, use the mineral/baby oil and cotton balls to wipe the oil on the front and back of the star.  Then place between paper towels to absorb the excess oil. This technique mimics what happens with the two constellations: the crayons are one substance that is applied.  The oil is another substance that is applied.  By themselves they aren't that impressive.  When you use both the crayon and the oil  the drawing becomes much more vibrant and intense.

 

 


 

A lesson written by rotation.org member Cat Blue

 

A representative of Rotation.org reformatted this post to improve readability.

 

Epiphany Star photo copyright Martha Donley (christiancrafters.com/craft_epiphany_stars.html), used as an educational reference.

 

Musical Lesson Idea about "Gifts"

Here's a TERRIFIC version of "Little Drummer Boy" that could be projected big and kids could play along with using all sorts of percussion instruments and objects. The performers are "For King and Country" -a popular contemporary rock band (two Australian dudes).

Ever notice that the little drummer boy has "no gift to bring" except his drumming and praise? What kind of gifts does Jesus want?  Praise is one of them.  

for KING & COUNTRY - Little Drummer Boy | LIVE from Phoenix (on YouTube)

When I look at this video, I imagine kids with percussion instruments, even buckets and sticks making a racket during the "loud" parts of the music video.  Easy to sing along with as I'm sure most of your kids already know it.  Good opportunity to talk about the song lyrics so that we can hitch more biblical thought to this ubiquitous Christmas classic.

What would you write or draw on these Dixie Cups?   

I saw this simple idea where kids stick Xmas lights through the bottom of dixie cups, and the Sunday School teacher in me immediately wondered: what they could write or draw on those cups.

dixiecupstarsHow could they be decorated with stars and images and words from the story?  

I'd use plain un-waxed paper cups, rather than the wax-covered "dixie" cups so that markers and decorations would stick to them. Wondering how to cut star shapes out of them. I suppose you could just poke holes in the shape of a star, or draw a star and let the light glow from behind it.

Safety Note: Use only LED lights because they burn much cooler.




Star Night-Light Idea

nightlightI saw this "heart" night light idea where someone had glued a shape to a night light's plastic cover and immediately wondered about how to make and glue a foil covered star with a message on it. Perhaps add tinsel streamers hanging beneath it to glow when the night light was turned on. 

Inexpensive night lights can be bought in bulk. Many come with dawn to dusk sensors.

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Robyn Linstroth
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