What Is Epiphany?
The story of the wise men
by Kate Fleming (revised, originally published in 2002)
Suitable for Whole School (Pri)
To explore how finding God transforms everyday events into something special.
Preparation and materials
- You will need to know your ‘script’ so that you can direct the action of the story. The children involved will be responding to your instructions - they do not need to prepare in advance.
- You will also need three cardboard crowns, three decorated boxes and an adult to play the part of Herod.
- Ask if any of the children can tell you something about the story in the Bible when some wise visitors (wise men, or kings) came from the East to visit the baby Jesus.
Gather the children’s ideas and make the point that the Bible does not say how many of these wise visitors there were. However, it is a tradition to say that there were three.
Ask for three volunteers to play the parts of the visitors and give each of them a crown.
- Talk about the gifts that the wise visitors brought. The Bible tells us that these were expensive and valuable items of the time. Gold is a precious metal, and frankincense and myrrh are expensive perfumes and ointments.
Show the decorated boxes to represent each gift.
You might like to ask the children what three gifts might be given today. What three things would be valuable and important things of our time? Perhaps still gold, but maybe also a PlayStation and a smartphone?
Ask for three volunteers to play the parts of the servants and give each of them a gift to carry.
- Now tell the story of the visit of the wise visitors based on Matthew 2.1-12, with the children miming the actions as you speak.
Start with the wise visitors looking up at the sky and the servants asleep on the ground.
The wise visitors see a special star in the sky. (Wise visitors look up and point.) They talk together about what this might mean. (Wise visitors huddle and whisper among themselves.)
They decide that they must go on a journey to greet a great new king. So, they wake their servants, gather provisions for a long journey and set off. (Wise visitors mime making preparations.)
It is a very long way. (Lead the party around the hall, adding the following at various points.)
Sometimes, they are freezing cold. (All mime shivering.)
Sometimes, it is very hot. (All mime feeling too hot.)
They are very tired and long to stop (All mime tiredness), but the star keeps leading them onwards. (Wise visitors point to the star and urge the party to keep moving.)
As they near their journey’s end, King Herod gets to hear of them and summons them to him. (Herod beckons them over. The servants hold back while the wise visitors bow to Herod.)
Herod is very interested in this talk of a new king. He asks the travellers if they would be good enough to call back when they have found him so that Herod can worship him, too. (Wise visitors and Herod mime regal conversation.)
- Stop the narrative and discuss with all of the children what they think Herod may have had in mind. Draw out the idea that Herod really wants to do away with this new king, whom he sees as an enemy, or rival.
Then, continue the story.
- At last, the wandering star leads them all to the place where the new king is. The wise visitors go in and kneel before the baby (wise visitors kneel), while the servants peep in from outside (servants peep in, trying to see). The wise visitors give their gifts to the baby’s mother. (Wise visitors put down gifts.)
Does anyone know who the baby was that they saw?
- Explain that the baby was Jesus, who would grow up to be a very different kind of king from King Herod.
Then, continue the story.
- Finally, after their long journey and exciting day, the wise visitors go to sleep. (All lie down on the floor.) As they sleep, they have a dream. In the dream, God tells them not to go back to Herod, but to go home a different way.
The next morning, they quickly get up, pack their bags and set off for home (Servants mime packing, and then all mime starting journey), but by a different road. (Guide them on a different route around the hall back to their starting point.)
Herod is very angry when he realizes that he’s been tricked. (Herod stands up and walks out angrily.)
- Ask the children who have been performing to sit down. Then, explain that the wise visitors found something very special at the end of their long journey, and we’re going to think about that now.
Time for reflection
The wise visitors went on a long journey to find a special person. Think about the special people in your life. Who is really special to you?
Herod was jealous of the new baby. He lied to the wise visitors, pretending that he wanted to worship Jesus. Think about what makes you jealous.
- Are there things that other people have that you wish were yours?
- Do you ever tell lies to get your own way?
The wise visitors found what they were looking for by following a star. Think about what you would like to do today. How will you make it happen?
‘Travel on’ (Come and Praise, 42)