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A Visit from the Magi

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Play (Preschool)New TestamentSession 20

A Visit from the Magi

We want to worship Jesus.
Faith Nurture Goals
  • Tell what the magi did when they found Jesus.
  • Realize that our worship is a gift to Jesus.
  • Worship Jesus!

Leader Reflection

Preparing to Tell God's Story

Because this story is so familiar, and is depicted on countless Christmas cards, we often fail to see how odd it really is. For one thing, the magi are usually pictured with the shepherds, which is wrong, since they obviously showed up some time after the night Jesus was born. (And, by the way, the Bible says nothing about there being three "wise men.") But who are they? And why would they bring the baby Jesus gifts that recognized his kingly stature and universal authority?

They were most likely Persian astrologers, pagan stargazers who thought they could predict human affairs by the movements of the stars. To the Jews, who were the main audience of this gospel originally, this was not just odd, but ludicrous. Astrology was specifically condemned as idolatry in the law of Moses.

Nevertheless, the wise men show up in Jerusalem one day, telling everyone that they've seen a special star---a sure sign that a new King of the Jews has been born. Herod, it says, was "disturbed." Of course he was; he was the king of the Jews and would never tolerate a rival. Still, he goes through the charade of gathering the religious notables to see if they know where the Messiah had been born. And there it was in the book of Micah: Bethlehem, the city of David.

Feigning excitement, Herod sends the wise men off to Bethlehem to “make a careful search for the child" and, of course, to report back to Herod so he might worship the new King. Knowing nothing of the treachery in Herod's heart, the magi set off for Bethlehem, "and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them. . . . When they saw the star, they were overjoyed" (2:9-10).

Then comes the scene that's rightly depicted on so many Christmas cards and in so many famous paintings: the magi bowing low in worship while Mary and the baby receive their expensive gifts. And once more an angel intervenes to warn the magi to return home another way.

It's a wonderful story, but what does it mean, and why is it included so prominently in Matthew's gospel? Sneaking a peek at the end of Matthew's story gives a hint. After telling the adventure of Jesus' life and death and resurrection, Matthew has Jesus speak the final word before his ascension: "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations . . ." (28:19). Already at the beginning of Jesus' life, the nations, represented by these pagan magi, bow before the Lord. This child will not only be the King of the Jews, but the King of Kings, the Lord of the nations.

There is something else very interesting going on in this story. God meets the magi where they are. Are they astrologers, pagan stargazers? That's where God meets them. But that revelation by itself is not enough. The answer to their question, "Where is the one who has been born King of the Jews?" can only be answered in God's special revelation, the Bible. Then, following both the star and the biblical prophecy, they come to Bethlehem. There they take the final step, bowing in reverence before the One hinted at in the stars and revealed in the Scriptures, the long-awaited Messiah. And that's where all revelation must finally lead: to genuine, heartfelt, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

  • Why do you think it happens so often in the gospel that outsiders are more open to what God is doing than insiders?

  • What makes Herod so hostile to the “King of the Jews?”

  • What do you imagine these magi told their families after returning home from their long journey?

  • Here’s another opportunity to celebrate Christmas with the children. It’s special! But let them know the main reason that it’s a very important holiday for you—and for everyone who loves and follows Jesus.

  • Don’t try to draw analogies between the gifts of the magi and gifts we can give Jesus. This doesn’t work well with most little ones, who think so concretely about presents. Just be direct—we can worship Jesus like the magi did.


Step 1 Gathering for God's Story

  • body smart
  • picture smart
  • word smart


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