An assembly for Epiphany
by Janice Ross
Suitable for Key Stage 3
To consider the wrong assumptions surrounding Jesus' birth and person.
Preparation and materials
- Coffee mug containing hot lemon or berry fruit. If possible, select a mug with the word ‘coffee’ written on it.
- The two definitions of ‘to assume’ displayed for point 2.
- Four readers to take part in point 3 - these readings should be practised prior to the assembly.
1. Arrive at the assembly drinking from your coffee mug.
Ask the following questions:
- What do you think is in my coffee cup?
- Why do you think I brought this into assembly this morning?
Listen to a range of responses.
Accept all answers by saying ‘You might be right.’
Invite someone to investigate the mug and ask them to tell the other children what they find.
Ask the question:
Does this change why I might have my mug in assembly this morning?
2. Explain that we make assumptions all the time. Sometimes our assumptions are correct and sometimes they are wrong, as in the case of the coffee cup.
Ask if anyone knows what it means to assume something.
Show the two definitions.
‘To assume’ means ‘To suppose to be the case, without proof’ or ‘To accept as truth without checking.’
Ask the pupils to suggest any synonyms for ‘to presume’ (to suppose, to take as read, to deduce, to infer).
Write these on the board.
3. The story of Epiphany could be viewed as a story of wrong assumptions.
Ancient civilizations believed that astronomical phenomena were connected to terrestrial events.
Listen to Numbers 24.17.
Reader 1: ‘There shall come a star out of Jacob, and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel.’
From ancient writings such as this the wise men of old believed that one day an unusually bright new star would herald the birth of a king (sceptre) in Israel (Jacob). So, when a bright new star did indeed appear in the sky, they set out from the east to follow it.
There have been many theories about how this star came about. Many astronomers believe that the planets Jupiter and Venus came together, giving the appearance of one exceptionally bright star. It doesn’t really matter how this star was formed. It is enough to know that on the basis of this astronomical phenomenon, which had been foretold, these learned men set out on a pilgrimage.
Reader 2: The three wise magi from Arabia, Persia and India finally arrived at the palace of King Herod. Their journey had been a long one. Every night they had watched the star move slowly eastwards and they had followed it over deserts and mountains until they drew near to Jerusalem. They assumed that, because this was a special birth, the child would be born in the royal palace. They assumed that the king would know about it and be the man to ask. But Herod was frightened when he heard about these visitors. His chief priests and scribes informed him that the ancient Hebrew writings suggested this special birth would be in Bethlehem.
Reader 3: The wise men asked: ‘Where is the child who has been born King of the Jews, for we have seen his star in the east and have come to pay him homage.’
The king pretended to be as interested and excited as they were.
The king asked: ‘When exactly did the star appear? Please go and search diligently and come back and tell me so that I too can come and pay him homage.’
Reader 4: The wise men agreed, bowed down before the king and hurried on their way to Bethlehem. There they saw the star stop right over a stable. This was not what they had expected at all, not where they had assumed their journey would lead. They found a stable, a young couple who were far from rich and a baby. But when they saw the child they knew deep within their hearts that this was indeed the one of which the writings had spoken. They bowed down and offered their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. The wise men didn’t go back to Jerusalem to tell King Herod that they had found the child. They were warned in a dream that their assumptions about him had been wrong too!
4. Even when Jesus became a man and showed by his teachings and miracles that he was indeed God’s Son, the promised Messiah, people still continued to make assumptions such as: ‘But he is just the carpenter’s son from Nazareth!’ and ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’
Time for reflection
What assumptions do we make about Jesus that might be wrong?
What can we do to check whether our assumptions are correct or incorrect?
What assumptions do we make about people in general?