Background to the Feast of the Epiphany
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The Epiphany is celebrated on the Sunday between January 2nd and 8th while the actual feast day occurs on January 6th (twelve days after Christmas). In many European countries the Epiphany, rather than Christmas (Feast of the Nativity), is the day of gift-giving.
The Epiphany is in commemoration of the gifts of the Magi taken from Matthew 2:1-12. The Epiphany is a celebration of the “revelation” of God in human flesh.
The popular song beginning “We three kings of Orient are…” is well known but it spreads an unlikely interpretation of Matthew’s account of the Visit of the Magi. It is generally believed that the three “kings” were actually astrologers following an unusual star. Had these three men been kings, they were likely to have brought escorts rather than traveling alone.
Interpretation of the Visit of the Magi
The story of the Visit of the Magi makes an important point about the role of the Messiah. Jesus is called “the newborn king of the Jews” by the magi who travel from the east. These men were not Jewish yet they paid homage to the King of the Jews.
Matthew, who wrote to a Jewish audience, hoped to express the universal role of Christ in this story. These men were foreigners but they honored Jesus as their king. Herod, who is not an heir of King David and not the rightful King of the Jews, was threatened by this new king and attempted kill him.
This reveals another important theme of the Gospels: Jesus was not to become a political King of the Jews to dethrone Herod or even the Roman emperor. Instead, he ushered in a new kingdom that extended beyond political regimes.
Epiphany Lesson Objectives
- SWBAT create a modern day version of the Visit of the Magi.
- SWBAT describe how the Matthew’s depiction of the Visit of the Magi reveals the universal role of Christ.
Epiphany Lesson Activities
1. Presentation: Provide some background to the students about the Feast of the Epiphany. You may use the student textbooks or create your own mini-lecture based on “Background to the Feast of the Epiphany” above.
2. Presentation: Read Matthew’s account of the Visit of the Magi (Matthew 2:1-12). Discuss the importance of this story. Using the “Interpretation of the Visit of the Magi” above, stress the importance of the Magi being from the East, non-Jews paying homage to the newborn King of the Jews, and why King Herod would feel threatened by the birth of Christ.
To understand the meaning of the gifts of the magi, show this video:
3. Practice: Have students create a modern-day version of the Visit of the Magi. Give them this simple chart as pre-writing:
3 Magi =
Bethlehem = South Bend, IN
Herod = FBI Director
3 Magi = scientists from Asia, Africa, and Eastern Europe
Star = E-mails
Gifts (Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh) = credit card, priest’s collar, journal
Bonus Video: Chalking the Door
Chalking the door is a popular Catholic tradition on the Feast of the Epiphany. In this video I explain the meaning of the letters written in chalk above the doors of Christian homes: 20+C+M+B+YEAR:Evil in the Last Days
1But understand this: In the last days terrible times will come. 23unloving, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, without love of good,…
But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them, expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.
The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all of this and were scoffing at Jesus.
slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant, and boastful. They invent new forms of evil; they disobey their parents.
For all the others look after their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.
1 Timothy 1:9
We realize that law is not enacted for the righteous, but for the lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinful, for the unholy and profane, for killers of father or mother, for murderers,
1 Timothy 3:3
not dependent on wine, not violent but gentle, peaceable, and free of the love of money.
1 Timothy 6:10
For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. By craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.
2 Peter 2:10
Such punishment is specially reserved for those who indulge the corrupt desires of the flesh and despise authority. Bold and self-willed, they are unafraid to slander glorious beings.
For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
2 Timothy 3:4
Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;
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We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves…
2 Corinthians 5:15
And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.
And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.
Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,
Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:
For the wicked boasteth of his heart's desire, and blesseth the covetous, whom the LORD abhorreth.
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They that trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches;
To the chief Musician, Maschil, A Psalm of David, when Doeg the Edomite came and told Saul, and said unto him, David is come to the house of Ahimelech. Why boastest thou thyself in mischief, O mighty man? the goodness of God endureth continually.
A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,
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1 Timothy 6:4
He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings,
But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.
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And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time.
And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished: for that that is determined shall be done.
1 Timothy 1:20
Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.