As with all good things, Christmas has come and gone with its pile of wrapped gifts to entice us and meet our fancies. Christmas may have come and gone; the gifts put away and yet…is that all there is? Until 23 yrs ago, being the sheltered northeast Protestant Evangelical Fundamental Baptist I had never heard of Gaspar, Melchior and Balthazar. But, enter a sweet Puerto Rican who stole my son’s heart and our eyes were opened. With each passing year we have learned more of this special day as they now celebrate it along with our granddaughter.
So what is Three Kings Day or as some call it Epiphany?
As with most aspects of the Christian liturgical calendar, Epiphany has theological significance as a teaching tool in the church. Three Kings Day, or El Dia de los Reyes Magos, celebrates the Biblical story of the three kings, Gaspar, Melchior and Balthazar, who followed a star that led them to Bethlehem, where they brought baby Jesus gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. The significance of this is that it brings to life the scriptures [Matt 2 and Is 60:3] about the visit of the Three Wise Men to Herod and finally to Bethlehem.
IDEA: Why not take time to read this story to the children in your ministry on or near January 6th?
Note this idea: The Wise Men or Magi who brought gifts to the child Jesus were the first Gentiles to acknowledge Jesus as "King" and so were the first to "show" or "reveal" Jesus to a wider world as the incarnate Christ. This act of worship by the Magi, which corresponded to Simeon’s blessing that this child Jesus would be "a light for revelation to the Gentiles" (Luke 2:32), was one of the first indications that Jesus came for all people, of all nations, of all races, and that the work of God in the world would not be limited to only a few..
How is it celebrated? Homes are decorated with nativity sets placing the Three Kings in promince near the baby Jesus.
IDEA:Why not include the nativity scene in your classroom? Allow the children to place Gaspar, Melchior and Balthazar in the scene as you tell the story. Here’s an activity you could do in the classroom as part of Puerto Rican tradition. Have children fill a shoe with “grass—you can use grass usually saved for Easter or that crumpled up paper found in the gift departments. Have the children take a “nap” while they wait for the Three Kings to arrive. While they are “napping” fill the shoes with sweets or a simple inexpensive gift. Tell the children as they fill their shoes that they are helping the three kings and their camels/horses along on their journey and that this gesture is a gift of food for the King’s Horses while they rest in between deliveries.
Visiting Puerto Rico around this time of the year finds 12 days of nonstop festivities: lively music, dancing, a feast of roasted pork, pasteles, pigeon peas, rice and coconut flan all lovingly prepared. Use this as a teaching time to teach the hymn: We Three Kings.
So as a children’s Sunday school teacher what is the significance and what lessons can we use to teach our children about this special day?
Here are some practical ideas for you to make this January 6th day extra special:
1. Read the scripture references in Matthew 2
2. Bake a Three King’s Cake to serve as a snack
3. Dress the part of one of the Three Magi
4. Take up an offering that will be shared with the church for those less fortunate
5. Offer prayers, that we like the Three Magi, can be a blessing and reveal the Christ child to the world.
6. Teach the children the Three Kings Hymn
We Three Kings
John Henry Hopkins, Jr. (1857)
We three kings of Orient are;
Bearing gifts we traverse afar,
Field and fountain, moor and mountain,
Following yonder star.(Refrain)
O star of wonder, star of light,
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect light.
Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain
Gold I bring to crown Him again,
King forever, ceasing never,
Over us all to reign.
Frankincense to offer have I;
Incense owns a Deity nigh;
Prayer and praising, voices raising,
Worshipping God on high.
Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume
Breathes a life of gathering gloom;
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,
Sealed in the stone cold tomb.
Glorious now behold Him arise;
King and God and sacrifice;
Sounds through the earth and skies.