Epiphany: Matthew the Writer
An assembly from the Culham St Gabriel archive
Suitable for Whole School (Pri) - Church Schools
To consider the revelation of Jesus to the wise men, as told by Matthew in the Bible.
Preparation and materials
You will need to be familiar with the story of the visit of the wise men to Jesus, as found in the Bible in Matthew 2. Even if this has been taught as part of the Christmas story, you will need to recap it during the assembly.
You will need a tunic and head-dress for an adult to play the role of Matthew, and three scrolls labelled as follows.
- Chapter 1: Family Tree
- Chapter 2: The Birth of Jesus
- Chapter 3: The Visit of the Three Wise Men
- Optional: you may wish to read the story found in Matthew 2.1-15, or ask a child to read it.
- Note: in the Christian calendar, 6 January is the traditional date for the Feast of the Epiphany. According to the Collins English Dictionary, ‘epiphany’ is defined as ‘the manifestation of a supernatural or divine reality; any moment of great or sudden revelation’.
At Epiphany, Christians remember that Jesus was revealed to the Gentiles, that is, all people rather than just the Jewish people.
As the assembly begins, Matthew should be seated at a table, pretending to write. He will tell the story of the wise men as if he were writing it down.
Hello, my name is Matthew. Or you can call me Levi if you like - that’s my Hebrew name. I answer to both!
Can you see what I’m doing? That’s right - I’m writing a book, only in Jesus’ time, we wrote on scrolls instead. Look, here’s the first chapter.
Hold up a scroll displaying the words ‘Chapter 1: Family Tree’.
It lists the names of all Jesus’ family - right back to Adam. It took me ages to do.
Hold up a scroll displaying the words ‘Chapter 2: The Birth of Jesus’.
This is all about the Christmas story . . . but as we’ve just been celebrating Christmas, you probably know all about that! Mary and Joseph travelling to Bethlehem and being unable to find a place to stay; the kind innkeeper who allowed them to stay in his stable. The birth of baby Jesus who was laid in a manger, which would usually have been used for the animals’ food. The angels visiting the shepherds to tell them about the arrival of such a special baby. I wrote it down so that people like you would come to know about Jesus.
‘Jesus’ is a very special name. It means ‘Saviour’, you know. And my book is about him. I got the details from all sorts of people who knew Jesus - people who were his family and friends as well as people who just saw what was going on, like the guard at Herod’s palace. Anyway, I’ll tell you about my next chapter. You may be able to help me as we go along. This is what it’s called.
Hold up a scroll displaying the words ‘Chapter 3: The Visit of the Three Wise Men’.
Herod was king at the time - and proud of it! He ruled in Jerusalem and had a marvellous palace with lots of servants and advisors. Bethlehem wasn’t that far away, and that’s where Mary had her baby and called him Jesus. Soon after, Joseph had moved them out of the stable and into a rented house nearby. Well, my contact back at the palace in Jerusalem says that three amazing visitors arrived one night, declaring that they were following a star. Apparently, they studied stars and worked out from special charts what each star meant. This star meant that a new king was to be born. So they went, first of all, to the obvious place to find a king: the palace in the capital, Jerusalem. You can imagine how Herod felt when he heard about that. He exploded! ‘New king indeed! I’m the only king around here! What do you mean, new baby king?’
There was a big meeting. All the men who understood the laws came, along with some priests from the temple.
‘Where is this “new king” to be born?’ Herod asked them sarcastically. ‘Find out and let me know!’
Well, they had the answer to that already . . . ‘Er, in Bethlehem, your Majesty. It’s written in the Prophets.’
‘Right!’ said Herod. ‘Get those three star-gazers back in here at once.’
As soon as they arrived, Herod asked them what time the star had first appeared. Then, he had an idea. ‘Go to Bethlehem and find this king. Then, come and tell me where he is so that I can go and worship him, too.’
The three wise men left, got back on their camels and horses and off they went into the night, to Bethlehem. As they went, they looked up, and there was the star again. Just the same as when they’d started their journey months earlier! Bigger and brighter than ever, shining right over Bethlehem.
I’ve been told that when the wise men arrived, they came quietly into the house, asking for the new king. When they saw Jesus, they fell to their knees and worshipped him. The wise men gave Jesus some very special gifts.
(You may wish to ask the children about favourite presents that they received at Christmas.)
The wise men gave Jesus gold - that’s for a king. They also gave him frankincense - that’s for a holy person. And finally, they gave him myrrh - that means suffering. Jesus’ mother, Mary, knew all of this and it made her sad to think that this baby was one day going to suffer.
The three wise men left soon after. Well, my contact at the palace said that they never came back to Herod at all. The word got round that the wise men had had a warning in a dream not to go back there, and it seems that Joseph had a dream that night, too. He was to take Jesus and Mary to Egypt, and stay there until Herod died. And that’s what he did.
After all these years, it still amazes me that this baby, Jesus, wasn’t just for the Jewish people. Even people from far away wanted to worship him. He came for everyone!
Stand up and gather together the scrolls.
Right, I must go - I’ve got to write about John the Baptiser next, so I’m off to another interview now. By the way, in your time, my book’s already published. You can read the whole story in the Bible if you like.
Matthew goes out.
Time for reflection
Optional: you may wish to read the story found in Matthew 2.1-15, or ask a child to read it.
Ask the children to think quietly for a moment about the wise men worshipping Jesus, kneeling before him and offering their gifts.
Ask the children, ‘What would you give Jesus if you could?’
We thank you for baby Jesus.
We thank you that he came into the world for all people everywhere.
Thank you for everything that he teaches us about your love for the world.
‘Kings came riding’ (Merrily to Bethlehem (HarperCollins), 20, 2003 edition)