Storytelling and Science Lessons, Ideas, Activities, and Resources for Teaching "Jesus' Birth Through the Eyes of the Wisemen" in Sunday School.
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Three Kings, Magi, Wisemen, Gold, Frankincense, Myrrh, Star of Bethlehem, Matthew 2:1-18, Herod, Jesus' birth, etc.
Bible lessons for "Jesus' Birth Through the Eyes of the Wisemen, Magi" -with science experiments, demonstrations, object lessons, magic tricks, presentations, etc.
Jesus' Birth through the Eyes of the Wisemen
A Journey of Faith
Summary of Lesson Activities:
Storytelling ...with a star craft
- Become familiar with some of the history and science/astronomy of this Bible story.
- Realize that God leads us to Jesus and salvation, just as He led the magi to Jesus with the star.
- Review Bible Background notes
- Bibles (supplied in teaching box)
- Magi Costume
- Props listed in script: US map, Bible, map of Middle East, picture of stars/constellations, camel, scroll, star ornament, gold & frankincense (potpourri with wood chips/bark) & myrrh (scented body oil in elaborate jar?)
- Star template (provided)—use this for younger grades
- Compasses (like you use in math class)—one for each child (in older grades)
- White printer paper
- Cooking oil
- Cotton balls
- Paper Towels
Advanced Preparation Requirements:
- Practice the script and using the props.
- Determine several cities that are about 1000 miles from Chicago
- Prepare the stars for the younger grades. Make a copy of the star for each student and cut it out.
- Suggestions for Characterization: Think nobility. Do not speak with contractions; it will add the air of formality befitting this wise one. Remember, you have been traveling a long ways. Show fatigue so that you can contrast to the energy and excitement that came with finding the Christ child. A saddlebag or treasure chest with various props inside will help articulate your story.
(Teacher lesson begins after guide time—the guides will review/ask questions about what happened last week)
Opening- Welcome and Lesson Introduction
Greet the Children and introduce yourself and any helpers that you have. Open with a prayer.
Dig- Main Content and Reflection
Introduction & Bible Story:
See Script (See reply to this message)
A lot of people think that the main point of this story is that we wise men were seeking Jesus. Actually, God was seeking us out. In fact, the Bible says in Luke 19:10 that Jesus came to seek and to save what was lost. Jesus came to find us because we were lost in our sins. God sent the star to be our invitation. We are going to make Christmas Stars now to remind us of this.
We are using a project directly from another Web Site so I can't spell it out here. The web site for the epiphany star is:
Some questions in closing:
- What were the wise men looking for?
- What did they do when they found Jesus?
- How did God show them the way?
- How does Jesus show us the way?
Journal Topic (last 5 minutes of class):
Help the guide to hand out pencils/pens and the student folders. Place the sticker with the journaling topic on a blank page. The children should find a place to sit quietly and think and write in their journals. You and the guide may need to help the younger children with their writing. Another option for younger children is to draw a picture about the topic.
Journal Topic (Older children): God used a star to show the wisemen the way to Jesus. How does God show us the way to Jesus?
Journal Topic (Younger children): Same
Closing Prayer: Dear God. Thank you for showing us the way to Jesus. Amen.
Have the children assist in the cleanup before they are dismissed.
Think about ways you might condense the script for them—they don’t need as many details as the older children.
If time permits, you could ask them what impressed them the most about the journey of the Magi.
- In the Fullness of Time by Paul L. Maier—a historian looks at Christmas
- Halley’s Bible Handbook
- Bible Atlas for pictures of the world at the time of Jesus
- Article by Rev. Greetham, 1996 http://www.greetham.me.uk/nativity/magi.html
- Article The Magi/Wise Man FAQ by Rev. Dr. Richard P. Bucher, January,1998.
- http://www.christiancrafters.c..._epiphany_stars.html about the craft
Script for the Magi
(Props are in bold)
Greetings! (in Aramaic or other fitting language?)
My name is ____________. (stretching) Ooh! My back is weary from traveling. It took me a long time to get here. Where are we? (allow kids to tell you) Oh yes. Here, let me pull out my map (of US). Please show me where we are exactly. Have you ever been out of this town? Was it a long trip? Show me the farthest place you have traveled to. How did you arrive there? Today’s trip reminds me of another long one my colleagues and I took some time ago. You know, though, we did not have these things called autos or aeroplanes. We walk and ride camels to get where we are going.
My story is actually about the time after Jesus was born. Bring me that tome—that book (The Bible). Story this month is from the book of Matthew –have students find it in the Bible.
That is a significant account, but let me tell you more about our journey.
I am what the historian of this book (indicate the Bible) called a “Magi.” What do you think that means? (allow time for kids to contribute) Some have called us kings, but we are really wise men or scholars that advise the ruler in our country. We study the sciences, medicine, and the heavens. Because we study a lot, we are very interested in the heavens…the stars…so beautiful. We Magi closely studied the heavens and believed that things that happened in the sky with the stars and sun and planets had an effect on what happened in the daily lives of our people. (Pull out picture of stars/planets/constellations.) One evening in our studies we noticed some unusual events occurring in the skies. (THEORY HERE COULD BE OMITTED FOR YOUNGER AUDIENCES) We saw two planets come close together in the sky. One of those planets was Jupiter, which stands for the kings. These 2 planets met near the star Regulus (which also means a king). This star is in the constellation Leo, which signifies the land of Judah—Israel). We saw these signs in the sky and knew that a king had been born in the land of Israel.
God commanded the very heavens to declare the birth of the Messiah. But how did we know these signs were pointing to the Messiah? The sky did not talk to us, no. But, history did! We have writings to read and study. The book of Numbers, in your tome there, predicted that “a star will come out of Jacob”—a Savior would one day come. It is amazing to me that God sent a sign that could be understood by us, even though we were from another country and another religion. We wanted to find this king. We are Gentiles, though, which means we were not from Israel. My colleagues and I are not Jewish. How would we find this “King of the Jews”? We naturally went to the Jewish capital city – Jerusalem.
Now, remember how I mentioned I had a loooong journey to tell you about? It was over 1000 miles to Israel and the land of Judea. But, from where you might ask? How many of you have heard “We Three Kings of Orient Are” (singing)? Well, that song is not quite true. Our families were not from the Orient but rather came from areas called Persia – you might call it (Iran) - southern Arabia (Saudi Arabia) or Babylon (Iraq) Where is that map? Here let me show you these homelands. (Pull out a map showing Middle East. Hopefully there will be an overlay of modern countries over biblical boundaries.) Can you find Jerusalem? See how far it is from where we came from? Over 1,000 miles. Let’s look at this other map – what is 1,000 miles from your Chicago? (interact and gauge reaction from kids on the distance)
We were determined to make the expedition. We knew this would be a long journey and that we needed to be prepared. It took us months to gather the supplies and food we would need. We needed to find many animals such as camels to carry all of our supplies. Pull out a camel. Have you ever ridden on a camel? I tell you – what an experience. My back gets sore just thinking about it. Besides us magi, there were also many servants. We were a large group – it is safer to travel in large numbers. We traveled through deserts and along major roads. Sometimes we found inns to stay in and sometimes not. Our journey took us many, many months - on a good day, a camel can only travel about 20 miles. That’s about how far it is to your Lake Michigan and back again. One day! How long does it take you travel to the Great water? The journey was not very fun. [We paraphrased a section from T.S. Eliot's poem about the Journey of the Magi--any library should have a copy. In essence, it talks about how the journey was long and hard and they were homesick for their plush palaces and servants. They complained about the camels getting sick, camel drivers running off, cold nights without shelter, staying in dirty little villages that overcharged....]
Once we got to Jerusalem we were unsure where to go next. Our large caravan must have made quite an impression in the city. We came to the attention of the ruler of that land, a man named King Herod. In fact, he asked that we come to see him. If we had known then what a terrible and cruel man he was, we might have thought twice about going to see him. He was so evil that he killed his own wife and sons because he was suspicious of them. He was also suspicious of us. When we inquired about the “King of the Jews” and told about the star, Herod was not happy to hear about a rival who would interfere with his kingship. He gathered together the priests and teachers of the law and asked them where the Savior was to be born.
Let me see what happened next. No, I will not need your book this time – I am more comfortable with my edition. (Pull out scroll.) Herod’s wise men consulted their ancient writings and found a prophecy from the book of one of their prophets—Micah. It said: “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel”. King Herod asked us when we first saw the signs in the skies. Then he sent us on to Bethlehem and asked us to find the child. Once we found the child, we were to return to Jerusalem and tell the king where the child was so that he could go and worship.
So we went on our way to Bethlehem – which is another five miles south of Jerusalem. Not too far. We were very surprised that the priests and teachers of the law did not come with us to find the promised Messiah. Perhaps they were too busy with their own affairs.
When we arrived in Bethlehem, the star (the craft we will be making later) that we were following stopped over a certain house in the town. We were so happy that our long search was over. We respectfully entered the house and saw a small child with his mother. I cannot describe for you the emotions we were feeling. We immediately bowed down and worshipped the child – this “King of the Jews.” We gave him gifts that we had carried all those miles. We gave him gold—a gift worthy of a king. We also gave him frankincense (potpourri with wood chips/bark), which is used in the temple to worship God. It comes from the sap of certain trees and gives off a sweet scent when it is burned. The last gift we gave him was myrrh (scented body oil in elaborate jar?), which must have seemed odd to welcome a child. This hardened sap from the branches of certain shrubs was used to prepare dead bodies for burial. Little did we know then that this child…this Jesus would one day die for the sins of the world.
We were the first Gentiles (people not from Israel) to worship him, but we were not the last. In fact, you too are Gentiles and you also worship Jesus. Is not this child a wonderful event to celebrate? After we worshipped the child, Jesus, we prepared to leave. We were warned in a dream not to return to Jerusalem and King Herod. Although we did not understand why, we obeyed the warning. We returned to our country by a different route.
We were not the only ones with unusual dreams. An angel of God appeared to Joseph in a dream and warned him to take Jesus and Mary to the land of Egypt immediately. The angel warned him that Herod would try to find Jesus and kill him. Even though it was the middle of the night, they left right away for Egypt. It is a good thing they did. King Herod was very angry that we did not return and tell him where the child was. He decided to kill all the boy children in Bethlehem who were two years old and younger in the hopes that he would also kill the new king that was born. Twenty or thirty children were killed, which must have been very sad. But Jesus was safe in Egypt and stayed there until after King Herod was dead.
This painting of “Adoration of the Magi” is by Diego VelÁzquez. This image is in the public domain, accessed via Wikimedia Commons.
A Sunday School lesson written by Cathy Walz from: St. John Lutheran Church
Forrest Park, IL