The Epiphany of Our Lord
Wise Men Come from the East to Worship Jesus
Matthew 2: 1 - 12
Christians like this story of the wise men so much that over the years we have added many embellishments to it.
The names, Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar, and their ethnic backgrounds were added to the story in the fifth to seventh centuries. Another piece of added folklore is the number of wise men - the Bible doesn't say that there were only three.
We also speculate that the wise men were Zoroastrians from what is present-day Iran, but we don't know that, either. "Wise men" may mean that they were astrologers or astronomers, who studied the stars. In the book of Daniel, "wise men" were people who could read books.
And in the eleventh century, three sets of bones, which were assumed to be those of the Three Wise Men, were disinterred in the Holy Land to be transported to Cologne, in Germany, each in its own ship, to be reburied there. This journey is the source of the lovely Christmas carol, "I Saw Three Ships Asailing." Of course we have no way of knowing whose bones were reburied.
But, plain and unadorned, this story of the wise men is still a wonderful story. We see King Herod in Jerusalem, and the wise men's travels are commanded by dreams.
Gold was a medium of exchange more reliable than any country's money in those days. Frankincense and myrrh were sacred spices burned before the altar of the Lord. Myrrh was also associated with marriages and burials. Nicodemus provided a hundredweight (about 75 pounds) of myrrh and aloes for Jesus' burial.
You may be able to find oil of frankincense and myrrh at a specialty shop for the children to smell (or from people who sell candles or candle-making supplies).
The quoted verse is from Micah 5: 2.
The wise men arrived some time after Jesus was born at the crowded inn. Joseph had extended family in Bethlehem and seems to have arranged a place to stay in a house by the time the wise men arrived.
1. Where did the wise men go to ask directions?
[The wise men went to Jerusalem.]
2. Who did Herod ask for help?
[Herod asked the chief priests and the rabbis for help.]
3. How did they know where Jesus was born?
[They knew where Jesus was born because they looked in the scriptures, at the book of Micah.]
4. What did the wise men do when they found Jesus?
[The wise men knelt down and worshiped Jesus.]
5. What did the wise men bring Jesus as gifts?
[The wise men brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh.]
6. How did the wise men return home?
[The wise men chose a different road, avoiding Herod.]
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