Epiphany of the Lord (Ages 3-6): What do they know?
Most people in our world think that Christmas is over. Oh dear, they are so wrong! We spent many weeks preparing for the feast, so we don't just stop—still we celebrate our joy! We know that when Jesus is born, Mary and Joseph are joyful, and so are a few shepherds who come to visit. But most people do not know about Jesus. They are not celebrating their joy. How will God let all the world know?
"after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “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.”
Here are some interesting people. Wise men. We wonder how they are wise. What do they know?
The wise men are looking for Jesus, but they are in the wrong place. Jesus is in Bethlehem, a very small town, not in Jerusalem, the great city. The wise men might have expected that Jesus would be in Jerusalem, the most holy city in Israel. But he is not there. We wonder why God would choose a small town for Jesus' birth.
The wise men set out again, now on the right path to Bethlehem,
and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was.
They are following a star. They must be travelling at night. That is interesting, too. We wonder if the wise men know who placed that star in the night sky for them to follow. We wonder if they know that someone wants them to find Jesus.
When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy.
They are so thrilled to find Jesus. Joy is bubbling over! That's what "overwhelmed" means—they have so much joy that they cannot keep it inside! An abundance of joy!
What the wise men do next is very interesting. (Most people think that they give their gifts next. But listen carefully, because they do something else first.)
On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Did you hear? They kneel before Jesus. These are great big men. Great wise men. But before this little child, they make themselves small. This is strange. We do not ordinarily see great important men kneeling in front of anyone. Why do the wise men do this? What do they know about Jesus? Perhaps their gifts can tell us why they kneel. Perhaps their gifts can tell us what 'paying him homage' means.
they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Gold is a gift that is given to kings, and people kneel before kings. But Jesus is just a little child. How can he be a king? What do the wise men know?
Frankincense has a beautiful smell. It is like a perfume that is burned in church. The smoke goes up and up, like a prayer to God. People kneel before God. I wonder what the wise men know about Jesus?
Myrrh is an oil that smells of spice. In Jesus's time, when someone dies, the body is wrapped in cloth and anointed with this oil that smells so good. Perhaps the wise men know that Jesus will die one day.
We know that Jesus dies on the cross. But we also know that Jesus rises to new life, so full of the life of God that he can never die again.
These are the gifts the wise men bring to the child, and then,
they left for their own country by another road.
What will they tell people when they return to their own country? Before, only Mary and Joesph and a few shepherds knew about Jesus. Then the wise men came and now they know, too. When they get home, how many people will know about Jesus?
We know what the wise men know, and we know more about Jesus, too. What could we do now? We could make ourselves small, too. We can genuflect. How small can we make ourselves before Jesus? And what will we whisper in our hearts to him?