This children’s sermon on Matthew 2:1-12 comes outside my usual sequence. It’s the story of the coming of the Magi, and in all three years of the lectionary it’s assigned for Epiphany, January 6. I’ve been writing children’s sermons for the regular Sunday Gospel readings, so I had skipped over this text three years in a row.
As I write this, we’re coming up to the 6th Sunday after Epiphany. I’ve already published a children’s sermon on that Gospel reading. (Find it here.) I also wrote a regular Monday Meditation on that text. (Find it here.) And you can find the Monday meditation on the Epiphany Gospel, Matthew 2: 1-12, here.
There are now lots of weeks like this, when I’ve already posted a children’s sermon. My aim is to keep writing those weeks, filling in gaps where one thing or another prevented me from posting in the past. Hopefully Google will lead people to my children’s sermon on Matthew 2:1-12 when they go searching for one.
It is a challenging text to bring to a kid’s world. Deceptively so, since it’s very familiar from ye ol’ Christmas pageant (Magi in bathrobes and Burger King crowns anyone?) and an ear worm of a Christmas carol (“We three kings, of Orient are…”)
Can I find a way to tell the story without playing into the cuteness of those tropes? Can I tell it so that it conveys a message from the text and the holy day it celebrates? We’ll find out as I venture forth into a children’s sermon on Matthew 2:1-12.
A Children’s Sermon on Matthew 2:1-12
Good morning, kids! Wow, I’m so happy to see you. Thanks for coming up to hear the children’s sermon.
Today’s story from the Gospel is one that you might alreadyknow.
- Sometimes people tell it around Christmas, because it includes the baby Jesus.
- Sometimes, though, people tell this story just after Christmas, on a special day called “Epiphany.”
An “epiphany” is when something that hidden is revealed all of a sudden.
Imagine if you were trying to find your way through your house at night, in the dark. If someone turned on the light, All of a sudden you would know your way.
“Wow! I can see! What a surprise!” That’s an epiphany.
Let’s see who has an epiphany in this story.
The story starts far away from Bethlehem. The Bible tells us there were some people called “Magi.” The Bible says they lived “in the East.”
Sometimes people call them “kings” but the Bible doesn’t call them that.
Sometimes people say there are three of them, but the Bible doesn’t give a number. The Bible just says they were Magi, from the East.
The ancient country of Persia was far to the East of Bethlehem. It’s called Iran today. In Persia, the religious leaders were called “Magi.” So let’s imagine our Magi were religious leaders from ancient Iran.
The Bible doesn’t tell us their names. But long ago, people started calling them Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthasar. We can call them by those names too.
Let’s try to imagine these Magi back in Iran, before our story.
Let’s imagine that sometimes all the Magi met together and shared the things they were learning about.
“I saw a bright new star!” said Gaspar.
“I saw it too!” said Melchior.
“I did too!” said Balthasar. “I think we should study to find out what it means,”
So they all went off to study. When they came back for their next meeting, they shared what they learned.
”I studied the movements of the planets and the stars,” said Gaspar. “This new star appeared because something important has happened.”
“I studied the ancient holy books” said Melchior. “They say when a great king is born a star will be his sign.”
“I have consulted the great traditions,” said Balthasar. “When a great king is born, the wise ones go to show him honor.”
“No, no, no!” said the other Magi at the meeting. “This star is far away. It cannot be our king. It is the king of another country. We should not honor a foreign king.”
“Ah,” said Gaspar, “but their God has shown the sign to us.”
“It was hidden,” said Melchior, “but now it is revealed!”
“We must go,” said Balthasar. “We must pay him honor.”
So it was decided: Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthasar would follow the star, find the king, and show him honor.
They traveled all the way from Persia in the East to the land of Judea in the west.
When they met someone in Judea, they asked their way “Excuse me,” said Gaspar, “We have traveled far to meet your king. Where does he live?”
“You need to go to Jerusalem,” the stranger said. “Ask for Herod’s palace. Herod’s the king.”
“Was this Herod born recently?” Melchior asked.
“No, the Romans made him king quite a while ago,” said the stranger.
“Ah,” said Balthazar. “This Herod can advise us.”
So off they went to Jerusalem.
They found King Herod’s palace. They knocked at the door. They asked if they could talk to Herod. They were led into the throne room.
“We are Magi, from the East,” Gaspar said.
“We are looking for the new king,” said Melchior.
“New king?” shouted Herod. “There is no ‘new’ king. I’m the only king around here!”
“But we have seen his star,” said Balthazar. “Your God has revealed it to us. All who are wise will honor him.”
“That’s a surprise,” said Herod. “I know nothing about this.”
“Neither did we,” said Gaspar. “It was hidden. Now it is revealed.”
“But we need to find him,” said Melchior.
“Where do your prophets say your king is to be born?” asked Balthasar.
Herod called for the scholars of the Bible. “What does the Bible say about where a king to be born?” he asked.
“Ah,” said the leader of the scholars. “You mean the Messiah, the king who will save our people. He is to be born in Bethlehem. But why do these foreigners want to know?”
“Your God has revealed it to us,” said Gaspar.
“We have seen his star,” said Melchior. “We must pay him honor.”
“No, no, no!” said the Scholar of the Bible. “You should not go to Bethlehem. The Messiah is our king, not yours. He comes to save our people, not yours.”
“It seems your God has invited us,” said Balthasar. “Something hidden has been revealed to you as well.”
So, off the Magi went, to Bethlehem.
They studied the angle of the star from the horizon. They followed it’s position in the heavens. They found themselves at a stable.
Inside the stable they saw a woman tending a baby. The baby’s bed was the hay in the animals’ food trough. And there was a man there too, looking worried and tired and happy all at once.
They knocked at the doorway.
The man came quickly, saying “Quiet please, the baby is sleeping.”
“Ah, the baby,” said Gaspar.
“The newborn king!” said Melchior.
“We have found him at last!” said Balthazar.
Then the woman got up and come to the door as well. “Who are you?” she ashed.
“We are Magi,” said Gaspar.
“From the East,” explained Melchior.
“We have come to honor the newborn king,” said Balthasar.
“But–“ said the woman, “how could you possibly know he is a king? I only know because an angel told me.”
And the man said “I only leaned about it in a dream. How could you know from far away in another country?”
“We study the stars,” said Gaspar, “and a new star shone in the heavens.”
“And we study ancient wisdom,” added Melchior. “Our sacred teachings said a new star would be for a new king.”
“Plus we asked directions,” said Balthazar. “The Bible Scholars in Jerusalem told us to come to Bethlehem.”
Honoring the King
The man and the woman looked at each other for a moment. The man smiled and shrugged his shoulders.
“Come in,” said the woman, “God showed you the star. Your studies led you here. We thought it was a secret — but now the whole world seems to know!”
“You are welcome in our home,” said the man.
The Magi came in, and bowed down before baby in a manger, the king of another nation, the savior of another religion.
They honored Jesus as king, giving him gifts worthy of royalty.
Rich gold. Sweet smelling frankincense. Costly myrrh.
And then they went home, all the wiser for having sought and honored Jesus.
- I wonder how the Magi felt when they finally found the king was a baby in a barn?
- I wonder how the Bible teachers felt when they found God had invited foreigners?
- I wonder how it is that people today discover the secret that Jesus is a king?
You are, of course, free to use this children’s sermon, or adapt it as you find most useful. But, if you use it, please do one (or more!) of the following.
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