Prepare the Way Worship Series, week 6 — FIND
January 6, 2018
Small Groups: From Worship To Discipleship
Fellowship —Snacks or a Meal (10 minutes with snacks; longer, obviously, if there is a meal)
Gathering Time (5-10 minutes) — In pairs or groups of three, discuss: “How has being part of this group been meaningful for you?”
Read: Isaiah 60:1-6 and Matthew 1-12
Group Dialogue (Approximately 30 minutes)
Opening Question: “What is the most valuable thing you have found?” [Answers can focus on the objective (i.e. a ring, a coin, a job, etc.) or subjective (i.e. a relationship)]
- If you were Mary or Joseph, what would your reaction have been to the visit of the magi?
- Excited by the Gifts
- What are the characteristics, according to Isaiah, of the period when Messiah comes? [Glory, light (and darkness), gathering of people near and far to experience joy and abundance vv. 4-5.]
- How is the quest of the magi different from Herod’s quest? Why is that surprising and even ironic? [Herod was supposed to be a Jewish ruler. If he were a faithful Jew, would we not expect his response to be rejoicing at the news of a Messiah instead of fear?] Why do you think Matthew (the only Gospel to include this story) includes this story? What might it foreshadow?
- The magi willingly traveled great distances and risked their safety in hopes of finding what the stars were pointing to. How do Jesus’ disciples also travel a similar journey?
- (R) At the finding of the Christ child, the magi gave gold, incense, myrrh. What are you called to give?
- (R) How has this series helped prepare you for what God is doing in and through you? In and through the church community?
Magi and the Gifts
The magi were not wise men in the sense of merely being intelligent. The magi were also not kings (despite the name of the hymn “We Three Kings” or even though some call this day “King’s Day” or Dia de los Tres Santos Reyes). They were likely astrologers from the region of Babylon. They were likely educated and rich Gentiles trying to discern the will of the heavens (stars), especially about the birth of future royalty. That these Gentiles give homage and gifts to one they identified as a Jewish king is astonishing. Their gifts would have been highly unusual to a working family such as Joseph and Mary. Likely, the gold symbolizes royalty; the incense relates to Jesus as High Priest; and the myrrh is a burial spice.
For many in other countries, like parts of Latin America, Epiphany takes on a larger significance than Christmas Day. This is the celebration in the liturgical year we celebrate the magi finding the Christ-child. Some think the practice of giving gifts originated with Epiphany, as children would leave out food for the magi and hay for the magi to feed the animals on Epiphany Eve. The children would wake up the next morning to find the hay gone, but replaced with gifts or candy. In whatever way Epiphany is celebrated, or not, it is a reminder that in the magi kneeling, worshiping, and offering gifts to Jesus, that Jesus truly is the Messiah for all people.
Much as Christmas is a day and a season in the lectionary calendar, so is Epiphany. How long it lasts depends upon the date of Easter, as the season runs until Ash Wednesday. (For more resources on Epiphany, see The Season after Epiphany, introductory article from the Book of Worship, Epiphany Reflections, and Family Observance of Epiphany.)
Prayer (10 minutes). Share prayer requests and respond appropriately.
Sending Forth (2 minutes). End by praying the following together:
O God, you made of one blood all nations that dwell on the face of the whole earth, and sent your blessed Son to preach peace to them that are afar off and to them that are near. Grant that all people everywhere may seek after you and find you. Bring the nations into your fold, pour out your Spirit on all flesh, and hasten your kingdom; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (The Book of Worship, 315)
Let’s listen closely for God’s word to us in this Bible passage.
Matthew 2:1-12 (NIV): “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.’ 3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 ‘In Bethlehem in Judea,’ they replied, ‘for this is what the prophet has written: 6 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’” 7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.’ 9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.”
Our verse for today is Matthew, chapter 2, verse 11, “On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.”
Let’s think about what this means:
God put a special star in the sky two years before Jesus was born.
The star was in the part of the sky that was associated with, or made people think of, Israel.
Magi were wise men in a different country who studied the stars carefully every night.
They believed that this star announced that a new king of Israel would be born.
They traveled to Israel’s biggest city, Jerusalem. In the palace, they announced the birth.
They wanted to worship the new king, but Jesus wasn’t there. King Herod was worried.
Herod asked the Bible experts where the Messiah was to be born.
The prophet Micah had prophesied about the place of the Messiah’s birth centuries earlier.
The wise men followed the star to the house in Bethlehem where Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were.
The wise men were overjoyed! They bowed down, worshiped Jesus, and offered him presents.
They gave him gold (money), frankincense (to worship God), and myrrh (fancy ointment).
God gave the wise men a warning in a dream, so they took a different road home.
Conversation: What stood out for you in this passage? Why did it draw your attention?
Let’s pray. Dear God: Thank you for leading the wise men through nature, prophesy, and dreaming in their search to worship Jesus. We are overjoyed that Jesus is our king! Please help us to be generous like the wise men who honored you with their gifts. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.