One way to explain the symbol of light is to present children with several symbols,
e.g. a national flag, a symbol for a sports team, and a cross.
As you present each symbol ask what it stands for and what it makes them think about.
Then tell them that the symbol for God is light. Since we can’t make a picture of light, we use things that make light like a star, sun, candle, lamp.
Display a treetop star ornament that goes at the top of the Christmas or Chrismon tree and note its meaning.
Recall Christmas candle lighting services and note that we lit those candles to remind ourselves that God the light is with us.
Then, move to the discussion below of the candles in the worship center. Talk about the Rainbow Candle and what it means.
When we go into the church – watch for light symbols scattered through the space.
In the days of Herod the King, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea,
There were magi in the East. And they saw a star rise.
Magi are people who study lots of things including stars and what they might mean, so when these Magi started studying what this star might mean, they decided that it probably meant that a King was being born and because of the star rose in the sky, they figured it was probably a King for Judea. It wasn’t uncommon for people to say a star rose when a great leader was born but it was very rare to actually see the star before the great leader was famous.
If you look at the first verse of We Three Kings, you see
We three kings of Orient Are Bearing Gifts,
we traverse afar. – So they’re coming from the East (Orient is an old fashioned word for East) and they’re carrying gifts and they’re covering a lot of territory.
What’s East of Jerusalem? Persia, India, Babylon, China, parts of Africa,…
They could have come from any of those places.
And I don’t know why someone decided they were kings. The story says Magi.
So the Magi set out to follow the star. (start travelling) Well, they were actually going to where the star already was. And if you are looking for a King of Judea then the logical place to start is the main city which was Jerusalem and probably the palace should know where the king is.
So that’s where they went. (allow time to arrive in “Jerusalem” if necessary)
And when they told Herod the king what they were doing, Herod was very worried. He was worried that someone was going to take his position as king away. And when Herod got worried about that, he normally went after the people who were worrying him. So when Herod got worried everyone around him started to worry too.
Herod wanted to figure out where the threat was coming from and he figured that Judean priests and scholars would know about a Judean king and they said, “Well our Greatest and most Famous King Ever was from Bethlehem so if we were looking for another Great King we’d probably start there.” And that’s where Herod sent the Magi.
But Herod was sneaky so he asked those Magi to come and tell him when they actually found the new king.
And off they went towards Bethlehem. And the star was still in the sky and they still seemed to be heading in its direction.
When they got to Bethlehem, they found a house, more or less under a star, and in the house were Mary and a child. They figured this must be the place and this must be the child, so they knelt down respectfully (today they would have bowed or curtsied probably) and offered gifts. They offered gold and frankincense and myrrh – which seem like weird gifts to us, but we’ll get to that in a minute.
The other important thing – before we get to the gifts – is that they had a dream that they should not report back to Herod so they went home by a different route.
We Three Kings – Hymn Study
Now about those gifts – let’s get in the mood by singing the first verse and chorus of We Three Kings
So what about those gifts?
What kind of gifts would you bring to a baby or a young child?
But these Magi brought gold, frankincense and myrrh.
The first thing to bear in mind is that this the king of gifts that people brought to rulers like Kings and Queens. Rulers had (things mentioned for baby presents) or the money to get them. And gifts like gold and frankincense in particular were normal gifts for this kind of situation. You might have noticed in the reading Karen did the line about:
They shall bear gold and frankincense,
And it shall herald the glories of the Lord.
when it was describing how all the rich nations would help the exiles get home and contribute to Jerusalem’s wealth.
Gold is pretty obvious – it means wealth and it pays for stuff. It’s like a $100 gift card to anywhere.
Frankincense is connected with worship and we have seen it as a way for the Magi to acknowledge that Jesus was strongly connected to God.
Myrrh was used when preparing bodies for burial so it was a way to recognize that even kings die. So that’s a pretty grim gift for a baby.
But what if there’s more and it’s not so theological?
Because frankincense and myrrh were also used as salves and medicines that could have been really useful for anyone with a new born baby. Myrrh is used for all kinds of sores and might be really expensive diaper cream. And people use frankincense to make a medicine for colic, which I hear is popular with babies.
And frankincense was the most valuable commodity in the world at that time. Kind of like vibranium in the Marvel Universe.
So what the Magi might have been producing was the Ultimate Diaper Bag for a family that was about to be on the run.