Hello to you! Welcome back to Learning Together for December Week 2’s lesson. The three wise men are the subject of our story “The King of kings” and can be found on pages 192-199 in The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Weber.
Children: As I promised last week, let’s learn some interesting facts about the three gifts that were given to Jesus by the wise men.
Gold, like today, was highly valued in Jesus’s time. Other things that were valued were silver, livestock, servants, and gemstones, but gold was the most precious of all.
Frankincense is a kind of resin gum that is burned for its aroma. It is like a modern-day house freshener, but only rich people could afford to make their homes smell better. In ancient times, churches often used it when worshipping God. Nowadays we would call it incense.
Myrrh is an expensive, fragrant spice derived from the sap of a tree native to the Near East. Like frankincense, it can be used as incense, but in the ancient world it also was used as a perfume, anointing oil, and even a medicine. Myrrh was a key ingredient in the mix of spices that were used to prepare bodies for burial.
Do you remember from the first lesson that Joseph, Mary, and little Jesus moved to Egypt to be safe from King Herod? Well, it is thought quite likely that the family sold the three gifts in order to have money to escape!
Adults: The message of the wise men is an important one. The wise men, traveling from the East, came to give worship and give royal gifts. This is one reason why we give gifts as Christmas, but more importantly because Jesus gave of Himself so freely. He is the greatest gift of all!
Gold – the Kingship of Jesus. The magi’s gifts were not simply a demonstration of wealth – they conveyed deeper meaning. The gold represents Jesus’ kingship. As Daniel 7:13-14 explains, Jesus’ kingship transcends all earthly rulers – the Magi recognized that, and they came to worship him.
Frankincense – the Deity of Jesus. The frankincense represents Jesus’ deity. In the Old Testament, frankincense was traditionally burned in the temple as an offering to God (Leviticus 2:2). By bringing this gift, the magi affirmed Jesus was no ordinary man; he is both fully man and fully God. As Colossians 2:9-10 says, “For in him dwells the whole fullness of the deity bodily, and you share in this fullness in him, who is the head of every principality and power.”
Myrrh – the Death of Jesus. Commonly used to embalm bodies, the gift of myrrh foreshadows Jesus’ death. We learn in John 19:38-40 that Nicodemus brought myrrh at the time of Jesus’ burial, and after this, Joseph of Arimathea, secretly a disciple of Jesus for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate if he could remove the body of Jesus. And Pilate permitted it. So he came and took his body. Nicodemus, the one who had first come to him at night, also came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes weighing about one hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and bound it with burial cloths along with the spices, according to the Jewish burial custom.
~This week’s prayer: I pray that I let Christ be my guiding star, as the three wise men did so long ago. Amen
There will be no Lesson 3 this month. On December 18th, there will be a brief Sunday School gathering right after the church service at 11:00 a.m. There will be no Sunday School following the December 25th church service.
Holiday greetings to you! Like every month before, you and your family are invited to listen and read and create and pray around one particular story. This December, our story is “The King of all kings” and can be found on pages 192-199 of The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones.
Children: Our lesson begins with listening to the story read out loud to you in this Learning Together email. Following along in your own book is a good idea because the pictures add so much to the story. Maybe there are people in your family who would like to join you!
The three men who all saw the same star were not kings, but they looked and acted like kings. They were very smart and knew such a star meant that Jesus had been born, so they hurried to pack and set out on the journey to find the baby. They traveled with many servants to make this 500 mile quest.
It is hard to figure out exactly how long their big journey took, but a good guess would be close to a couple of years! By the time they arrived in Bethlehem, Jesus was almost two years old and living in a tiny, simple house with his parents.
Once they arrive near Bethlehem, King Herod wasn’t happy to hear what the Wise Men had to say, which was that some new king had been born nearby. Herod believed he himself was the only king, and he planned to kill Jesus, but soon after the wise men visited, Jesus moved with his parents to a safe place in another country.
As you think about this story of the three wise men, you may have questions to ask or thoughts to share, and Pastor Mary will respond to all your posts! Maybe you wish to draw art work of part of the story. When we gather briefly on December 18th for Sunday School at 11:00 a.m., bring any of your art work with you!
Adults: Your Biblical reference to this story is the Book of Matthew, Chapter 2.
The wise men were probably Persian members of the order of priests, philosophers, and astrologers called magi that had existed east of the Euphrates River since ancient times. They performed public religious rites, mediated between God and men, interpreted doctrine, and educated the royal family. They were also very skillful astronomers. A star was in their line of specialty.
Later tellings of the story identified the magi by name and identified their lands of origin: Melchior hailed from Persia, Gaspar (also called "Caspar" or "Jaspar") from India, and Balthazar from Arabia. Note: We often hear about three wise men. The Bible does not say the number but does mention three gifts specifically.
Although Herod the Great had some positive qualities like courage and executive ability, he was excessively jealous and inhumanly cruel. If Herod thought anyone might threaten his throne, he would not hesitate to eliminate them.
Herod was aware, as all Jews were, that God had promised a Messiah to save his people. Herod called his priests and religious leaders together to ask them where the long-expected Messiah would be born. They quoted Micah 5:2, informing Herod that Bethlehem was the place.
After this meeting, King Herod called another meeting. This time it was a secret meeting and only with the magi. He asked questions to try to determine the age of this child king. With the pretence of wanting to worship, he sent the wise men to find the child and then report back to him.
The wise men travelled by night to the very house where Jesus’ family lived. Many depictions of the magi’s visit show them presenting gifts to a baby Jesus in a stable while the shepherds were visiting, but many months had passed since Jesus’ birth. Joseph and Mary now lived with their young son in a house in Bethlehem.
The Bible lists three expensive gifts, which will be discussed in more detail in next week’s lesson.
God knew it was unsafe for Jesus in Bethlehem, so he sent him and his parents to Egypt. Not realizing Jesus was gone, Herod ordered the killing of all Jewish boys under the age of two in the vicinity of Bethlehem. He wrongly thought he had solved the problem of another potential king. God had other plans.
~This week’s prayer: Like the three wise men, I pray that I will find Jesus in my life. Amen
Until next week,