The Wisdom of the Wise Men
An assembly for Epiphany
by Janice Ross (revised, originally published in 2011)
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To consider the meaning of wisdom.
Preparation and materials
- You will need to display the following definitions of wisdom:
- scholarly knowledge or learning
- knowledge of what is true and right coupled with just judgement as to action, discernment, insight
- Have available the image of the wise men that is available at: https://tinyurl.com/yyyf6vql and the means to display it during the assembly.
- Explain that today’s assembly considers the word ‘wisdom’.
Ask the students, ‘Who do you consider to be a wise person?’
Encourage the students to think of reasons for their choices.
Pause to allow time for thought or listen to a range of responses.
- Ask the students to consider whether these people are actually wise. Might they just be clever? Is there a difference between the two?
- Point out that there are different definitions of the word ‘wisdom’.
Show the first definition of wisdom.
People like Doctor Maggie Aderin-Pocock or Sir David Attenborough, for example, certainly have that kind of wisdom.
You may wish to point out some of the names that the students have suggested in this category. There might even be some teachers who could be named here.
- The Christmas story in the Bible refers to ‘wise men from the East’. These were certainly scholarly and learned men. They were probably astrologers who had studied the many ancient writings of Persia (now known as Iraq).
An unusual star in the sky heralded a very important birth. The wise men (the Greek word is magi) had probably travelled a great distance over mountains and deserts to arrive in the little country of Palestine. They went first to the palace of the king in Jerusalem. After all, that’s where you would expect to find a king. But they soon realized that they were looking in the wrong place.
When the wise men left the king’s palace, they were thrilled when they saw the star again, moving in the sky ahead of them. When the star stopped, it was over a stable in the small town of Bethlehem, six miles south of Jerusalem.
The wise men went into the stable and, as the Bible story goes, when they saw Mary, Joseph and the baby, ‘they knelt down and worshipped’.
- Show the second definition of wisdom.
We might say that the wise men were wise because at that moment, they had ‘knowledge of what is true and right’.
We know that they also had discernment and insight because they recognized that the newborn baby was somehow significant – Christians believe that he was the Son of God – and that a new era had been ushered in by his birth.
These wise men could kneel in a stable, humbly worship a baby and offer the finest of gifts – gold, frankincense and myrrh. To many, this would have appeared to be unwise. However, the wise men had a greater wisdom: they realized who this baby was!
Time for reflection
When the baby in the stable grew up, he became a great teacher. He told his followers to be wise in the way they lived their lives. He encouraged them to build their lives on a good, solid foundation of truth and faith so that when life threw its many storms at them, they would remain firm. Christians still believe that it is wise to follow Jesus.
Encourage the students to consider what they have heard about Jesus in school, at home, in church or anywhere else.
Encourage them to reflect on what they think about this baby who was worshipped by wise and intelligent men.
Show the image of the wise men and pause to allow time for thought.
Thank you for people around us who are clever and intelligent, and have much knowledge and learning to pass on to us.
Thank you for the gift of a free education.
Thank you that your wisdom goes far beyond any human knowledge.
Thank you that you are willing to share your wisdom with us.
Please help us to be wise in our actions and deeds.
Please help us to be wise in taking the time to consider what the life of Jesus actually means.
Teach us your ways.