Visit of the Wise Men, The
Here are a variety of worship resources inspired by the story of the wise men who visited Jesus after his birth.
Opening Prayer (based on Isaiah 60:1-6, Matthew 2:1-12)
God of all time,
we praise and adore you for breaking into the darkness of this world
with the glorious light of your presence.
A light which made your love for the world visible
in the babe born in Bethlehem—
Jesus Christ, your Son, our Saviour.
A light which guided those gift-bearing travellers from afar
to find and worship the Christ-child.
A light which leads us to you, now revealed in Jesus Christ.
We pray that you will accept our worship
for it arises from hearts and minds
in awe over the enormity of your gift to us of pure love.
In Jesus' name we pray.
~ Moira Laidlaw, on Liturgies Online.
About The Light
It’s always been about the light with you,
hasn’t it, Jesus?
Magi, braving distance and desert to find you,
and bewildered shepherds, compelled by an angel’s invitation,
allowed light to be their guide,
And it is still the light that calls us to you;
the light of beauty that whispers its truth
in surprising ways and places;
the light of compassion that kneels,
and washes road-soiled, life-battered feet;
the light of joy that glows
even in the darkness of grief and suffering;
the light that seeks to shine within us,
and through us into the dark corners of our world.
It’s always been about the light with you, Jesus;
and it’s always about the light for us.
Please lead us, now and always, out of darkness
and into your marvelous light.
~ John van de Laar, posted on Sacredise.com.
Gospel Reflection (inspired by Matthew 2:1-12)
Here comes the world,
drinking your light and basking in your brightness;
the wise and ignorant, kings and beggars, CEO’s and cowboys,
from Great Britain, India and Bolivia,
Shine your soft light
on the darkness inside us.
Incense our minds and hearts with your grace.
Be the treasure in our hearts.
Be the gift that we give.
~ written by Anne Osdieck, and posted on The Center for Liturgy at Saint Louis University website.
Call to Worship
We gather wondering, 'Where will we find the Babe born in Bethlehem?'
We will find the Babe in the laughter of children,
in the wisdom of grandparents.
We gather asking, 'where will we find the Child of Christmas?'
We will find the Child where the needy are gifted with hope,
where the oppressed are set free.
We gather wanting to know, 'where will we find the Christ who has come for us?'
We will find our Hope where fear is overwhelmed by grace,
where hatred is overwhelmed by love,
where all people are overwhelmed by joy.
~ written by Thom Shuman, and posted on Lectionary Liturgies.
The Kingdom (inspired by Matthew 2:1-12)
When, secondhand, we heard the shepherds call,
"The anointed has come!"
we set out,
arriving in this kingdom a moment or a lifetime ago.
We have journeyed from
tundra, tropics, poverty, privilege,
energy, exhaustion, giddiness, grief.
Through some miracle,
the Messiah has brought us together.
We are all refugees
with nothing of worth to bring--
no gold, frankincense, or myrrh.
We have no drum to play.
The gifts we tried to carry,
our best doctrines, rules, and dogmas,
slip like air through our fingers.
We cup our hands, offering offer nothing.
we have found our home.
The songs that welcome us here
are not the songs of angels
(who harmonize in a different realm)
but the hum of God's grace and love
which we intone in messy unison.
In this kingdom,
no one who journeys to the Christ
is unworthy or alien.
In this kingdom,
we are companions
standing close as the wind howls.
~ written by Shelly Barsuhn. Posted on MINEmergent’s Daily Communique.
Traditional Hymn: As with Gladness Men of Old
Worship Together #314
As with gladness, men of old
Did the guiding star behold
As with joy they hailed its light
Leading onward, beaming bright
So, most glorious Lord, may we
Evermore be led to Thee.
As with joyful steps they sped
To that lowly manger bed
There to bend the knee before
Him Whom Heaven and earth adore;
So may we with willing feet
Ever seek Thy mercy seat.
As they offered gifts most rare
At that manger rude and bare;
So may we with holy joy,
Pure and free from sin’s alloy,
All our costliest treasures bring,
Christ, to Thee, our heavenly King.
Holy Jesus, every day
Keep us in the narrow way;
And, when earthly things are past,
Bring our ransomed souls at last
Where they need no star to guide,
Where no clouds Thy glory hide.
~ William C. Dix
Contemporary Hymn: Wise Men, They Came to Look for Wisdom
Worship Together # 317
Wise men, they came to look for wisdom,
finding one wiser than they knew;
rich men, they met with one yet richer
King of the kings, they knelt to you:
Jesus, our wisdom from above,
wealth and redemption, life and love.
Pilgrims they were, from unknown countries,
searching for one who knows the world;
lost are their names, and strange their journeys,
famed is their zeal to find the child:
Jesus, in you the lost are claimed,
aliens are found, and known, and named.
Magi, they stooped to see your splendour,
led by a star to light supreme;
promised Messiah, Lord eternal,
glory and peace are in your name.
Joy of each day, our Song by night,
shine on our path your holy light.
Guests of their God, they opened treasures,
incense and gold and solemn myrrh;
welcoming one too young to question
how came these gifts, and what they were.
Gift beyond price of gold or gem,
make among us your Bethlehem.
~ Christopher Idle. Words copyright © 1981 Hope Publishing Company. If you use this song in worship, be sure to report it on your CCLI license.
NEUMARK (“If thou but suffer God to guide thee”)
Listen to it here: http://www.hymnary.org/tune/neumark_neumark
Contemporary Song: I Bring An Offering
I bring an offering
Of worship to my King
No one on earth deserves
The praises that I sing
Jesus may You receive
The honor that You're due
O Lord I bring an offering to You
I bring an offering to You
Over the skies of Bethlehem
Appeared a star
While angels sang to lowly shepherds
Three wise men seeking truth
Travelled from afar
Hoping to find the Child from heaven
Falling on their knees they bowed
Before the humble Prince of Peace
The sun cannot compare
To the glory of Your love
There is no shadow in Your presence
No mortal man would dare
To stand before Your throne
Before the Holy One of heaven
It's only by Your blood
And it's only through Your mercy
Lord I come
~ Paul Baloche. Copyright © 2002 Integrity's Hosanna! Music (Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing). CCLI Song # 3956562. If you use this song in worship, be sure to report it on your CCLI license.
Listen to it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vVA-o80qkAo
Contemporary Song: You Spoke and Behold the Dawn of Time
You spoke and behold the dawn of time
Said let there be light and there was light
God of this world through history
We see You shine we see You shining
They followed the star Your guiding light
That led them to You led them to life
God of this world in mystery
We see You shine we see You shining
You light up the world
You light up our lives
Your light is alive in me
Your word has foretold the end of time
The glory of You our only light
Saviour and King eternally
We'll see You shine we'll see You shining
No hint of darkness can stand in Your light
Can stand in Your light Lord
You've shattered the darkness and given us life
Your glorious life
~ Ken Riley, Matt Redman. Copyright © 2009 Thankyou Music (Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing). CCLI Song # 5499876. If you use this song in worship, be sure to report it on your CCLI license.
THE STORY OF THE GIFTS
[The following drama was inspired by Paul Flucke's story that first appeared in the Christian Leader (December 1985). This version was written by Adrienne Redekopp and was first presented at the River East Mennonite Brethren Church, Winnipeg (Manitoba) on December 24, 2014. It is posted here with permission. You are welcome to use it or some adaptation in your particular setting. See Notes at the end of this Worship Resource for a general disclaimer and a permissions notice.]
Narrator: The story has been told for centuries now. The story of the wisemen – wisePEOPLE – and the gifts they brought to the newborn king – how they saw the star and followed it for weeks, across mountain and valley and desert. In stately procession on their swaying beasts, they came and placed their treasures at the feet of the infant Savior.
And the gifts? Gold, frankincense, and myrrh. But you knew that!
Or so you think. And so you’ve been told.
But perhaps you were wrong. Perhaps the story is incomplete. You see, the story was told by those who had seen the wise ones on their journey. And by those who stood by in wonderment as the wise ones dismounted from their weary camels and strode to the door of the stable. Those who watched as the wise ones held their expensive offerings high before them. And then watched the door close behind them.
That much the world saw. And that is the story they told.
But that may not be the whole story.
If you listen very carefully and very quietly, I will tell you what I have heard. What I think happened when they entered the stable. What I believe to be the secret of the gifts.
Let me set the scene: it is late, and three travelers approach a stable, really a cave, carved into a hillside. Each traveler has dismounted from a camel, hot, sweaty, and tired after a long journey.
[Wise people walk down the aisle, eyes forward, in procession. Serious faces, oblivious to everyone around.]
They walk steadily, surely, ready to meet a king. As they reach their destination, they look at each other, silently asking who will approach first. Gaspar – let’s call him Garry – steps forward.
We are too far from times past for you to understand the clothing the wise ones wore, those that so well suited their professions, so let me alter things ever so slightly so that you will understand.
After all, this is a story – right?
Garry wears a suit of fine cloth, tailored to fit him “to a T.” At his waist, a leather belt by Hugo Boss, and around his shoulders a cashmere scarf. Garry, you see has lots of cash. (Well protected by the stock market, ahem, palace treasury…)
He pauses at the stable doors. People will say later, “He was praying, I saw his lips move.” But they would be mistaken. They can’t see what I am revealing to you. See right over there? The Angel Gabriel, guards the holy place – and Garry stops to greet her.
Gabriel: And who are you?
Gaspar: I am Garry, and I’ve come to worship the king.
Gabriel: All who enter here must bring a gift. Do you have gift?
Gaspar: Of course I do. I have brought bars of the purest gold – all with official stamps and serial numbers. See? (holding up a brief case)
Gabriel: Your gift must be the core of yourself. It must be something precious to your soul.
Gaspar: And that’s what I’ve brought. (Confidently; the hint of a smile upon his lips.)
Gabriel: So it will be. (And she, too, smiles as she holds the door for Gaspar to enter.)
Narrator: A little baby lies in a manger, surrounded by hay and animal smells. The light of a small lamp falls across the tiny face. Watch as Garry offers his gift…
[He goes to one knee and opens the briefcase, then jumps up and slowly pulls out a hammer.]
Look at his shock as he discovers, not the gold he expected, but a heavy workman’s hammer. And listen – he hears the soft voice of Gabriel again:
Gabriel: So it is what it is. You have brought the core of yourself.
Gaspar: (Angrily) A hammer? What kind of joke is this?
Gabriel: This is no joke. What you hold in your hands is the hammer of your greed. You have used it to pound wealth from those who work so that you can live in luxury. You have used it to build a mansion for yourself while others live in the streets. You have raised it against friends and made them into enemies – and you have destroyed your enemies with it.
Narrator: Garry is stunned – and saddened. Hanging his head in shame, he turns toward the door, but Gabriel blocks his way.
Gabriel: You have not offered your gift.
Gaspar: What - this? I can’t give this to Him! (in horror, looking at the hammer)
Gabriel: But you must. That is why you came. You cannot take it back with you. It is too heavy. You have carried it for many years and now your arms ache with its weight. You must leave it here, or it will destroy you.
Gaspar: The hammer is too heavy. A baby couldn’t lift this!
Gabriel: He can indeed. Though not in the way you imagine.
Gaspar: But it is dangerous. He might bruise his hands or feet – or break something.
Gabriel: That worry, you must leave to heaven. On the path of light, the child will encounter danger. But be assured, God’s presence will go with him.
Narrator: Slowly, Garry turns to where the Christ child nests.
[He carefully places the ugly hammer at the baby’s feet and hurries away.]
No wonder he rushes to leave the stable. But look at the smile blooming across his face!
The waiting world sees only the smile on Garry’s face as he exits the stable. His hands are raised, and new light sparkles in his eyes.
That much the world saw, and so the story is told.
Congregational song: Worship Together #294: It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
Narrator: Let’s go back to the stable and see what’s happening there.
Next to step to the door of the stable is Melchior – let’s call her Learned Mel. She is not as well dressed as Garry – she wears the dark robes of a scholar. Her ruffled hair and the furrows in her brow suggest a life lived close to the wisdom of manuscripts, both literary and musical. She is serious, at all costs. She has work hard to be respected. She has learned many lessons the hard way. She, too, pauses before the door. Only Mel can see the angel standing guard. Only Mel can hear her speak.
Gabriel: What have you brought?
Melchior: I bring frankincense, the scent of mysteries and times past.
Gabriel: Your gift must be something precious to your soul.
Melchior: That it is!
Gabriel: So it will be.
[Mel enters and stands breathless before the scene within.]
Narrator: In all her many years of searching for Truth – capital T - Mel has never sensed a presence like this – a light that shines not into your eyes, but into your soul, somehow... that light in the baby...and in the tired, quiet eyes of the baby’s parents as they look on.
She knees to pull out a silver flask of precious ointment from her robes.
But the jar is not silver anymore! It is plain old clay, rough and stained, like something dragged up from the basement. Horrified, Mel opens it to smell the contents.
[She leaps to her feet, only to come face to face the angel at the door.]
Melchior: You tricked me! This isn’t what I brought! (spitting words with fury.)
Gabriel: What is it, then?
Melchior: It’s vinegar! (disgusted.)
Gabriel: It is what it is. You have brought the core of yourself.
Melchior: What can you possibly mean?
Gabriel: You bring the bitterness of your heart. You have become poisoned with jealousy and hate. You have carried memories of old hurts for too long. You have held on to your anger, and let it light a fire inside you. You have searched so long for knowledge, but you have allowed yourself to be filled with poison.
[As she hears these words, Mel’s shoulders droop. She turns from Gabriel, swiping away a tear, and trying to hide the ugly jar in her robes. Silently she moves toward the door. Gabriel smiles, and places a hand on Mel’s arm.]
Gabriel: Wait. You must leave your gift.
Melchior: (sighing) I wish I could! I’ve wanted to empty my soul of this bitterness for so long! You were right about everything. But I can’t leave it here! Not for a baby. Babies are full of hope and happiness, not sadness and anger.
Gabriel: You can. And you must, if you want to find healing. Tonight, light has entered your life. Let it stay.
Melchior: But this is bitter and dangerous. What if the child drinks it?
Gabriel: You must leave that worry to heaven. On the path of light, the child will encounter bitterness. But be assured, God’s presence will go with him.
Narrator: So Mel places her gift before the Savior, coming out of the stable with heaven’s light in her eyes. The waiting world sees only that the lines on her brow have relaxed, and she looks ready to explore new ideas.
That much the world saw. And so the story is told.
Narrator: Look at the stable! I see one more visitor there, waiting to make his offering. He strides forward now, his back as straight as a tree, shoulders firm as a barricade. His uniform is homemade, well-used and proudly worn. He walks like someone born with authority. This is Balthasar – but we’ll call him Bill. He has commanded many battles. He is a leader to the core. He knows how and when things should be done. Before him, he holds a brass-colored box, obviously heavy, obviously important.
A murmur runs through the watching crowd as he hesitates before the door. “Look!” they whisper, “Even the Bill stops to pay his respects.”
But we know that it is Gabriel who has caused Bill to pause. And we know, too, the question she asks.
Gabriel: Have you a gift?
Balthasar: Of course. I bring a gift of myrrh, the most precious thing my team could find. Many have fought and died for centuries for this. It is the essence of the rarest plant.
Gabriel: But is it the essence of you?
Balthasar: I bring nothing but my best.
Gabriel: So it will be. Enter, and we will see.
Narrator: As he enters, the tender humanity of the baby king pierces Bill’s heart, like no adult opponent ever could.
Closing his eyes, he kneels and shuffles forward through the straw. Quietly. Carefully.
[Then, bowing his face to the ground, he slowly releases his grip on his gift, raises his head, and opens his eyes. He opens his gift - and before the baby is a machete.]
See how the smooth handle of the knife glistens with the sweat of his palms? How the razor-sharp edges of its steely tip catch the flickering lamplight?
[He gasps, grabbing the sword and leaping for the door.]
Balthasar: This isn’t my gift! Some enemy has switched it!
Gabriel: That is truer than you know. A thousand enemies have cast their spell on you and turned your soul into a knife.
Balthasar: You think this is a joke? I’ll show you funny! (raising his fist as if to strike.)
Gabriel: (not flinching) Living only for power, you become powerless. Every battle you win only leads you to another, with an even worse enemy.
Balthasar: Do you think I like to kill? You’re an angel – what do you know about life here on earth? I defend my people! If I hadn’t led them into battle, knives drawn, we would have been destroyed. Even now, enemies try to invade and destroy us. As soon as I leave this holy place, I have to leave on a new mission. I have to find more arms, buy more knives…
Gabriel: More? … More than what?
Balthasar: More than we have now, more than our enemies have.
Gabriel: And what will they do then? (softly). Will your enemies need more, too?
Narrator: Bill hears the angel’s words and they seem to echo in the deepest places of his soul. Hasn’t he often asked himself the same thing? Doubt catches him for a moment – but only a moment.
[Taking control of himself, he reaches down and grasps the knife – and turns to go.]
Balthasar: I can’t leave this here. My people need it. We can’t afford to give it up.
Gabriel: Are you sure that you can afford to keep it?
Balthasar: But our enemies could destroy us if we drop our weapons. I can’t take that risk.
Gabriel: Yes, it is as risk (slowly). But your way is a certainty – a certainty that the cycle will continue. That death will win.
Narrator: Once again, Bill hesitates. His sweat drips onto the blade as he waits – as Gabriel’s words battle with centuries of warrior instinct.
[A long moment passes.]
[Finally, Bill opens his fingers, and the knife drops to the floor.]
Balthasar: But here? Is it safe to leave it here? (looking at child, whispering)
Gabriel: (releasing a long-held breath, whispering) This is a safe place to leave it.
Balthasar: But he is a child, and the knife is sharp. It could pierce his flesh.
Gabriel: That fear you must leave to heaven. On the path of light, the child’s decisions will be guided by love, rather than safety. But be assured, God’s presence will go with him.
Narrator: Bill leaves the stable, his arms hanging gently at his sides. He walks first to Garry and Mel.
[Bill raises his arms, and embraces them as brother and sister.]
And look! He walks to each one gathered with outstretched arms, greeting them as long lost friends and family. Finding the light within.
[They walk out, smiling in greeting to people they pass. Perhaps even shaking a hand or two. Narrator to start as they’re almost to the back.]
That much the world saw. And so the story has been told.
How much did you see? What story will you tell? As you come before the Christ child, what do you bring – and how will he transform you?
Is this the story I wonder? This is the story I tell. This is the truth that I hold.
But what do I know? I’m only 58 years old.
Congregational song: Joy to the World
This worship resource (apart from the drama, The Story of the Gifts) was created/compiled by Christine Longhurst. You are welcome to use the worship resource and the drama free of charge, and where appropriate, please note the source. If you are printing any of the resources for distribution, please print the source as well. The content of the worship resource and the drama does not necessarily represent the views of the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches, which oversees the Centre for Mennonite Brethren Studies. For more worship resources by Christine Longhurst, see http://www.re-worship.blogspot.ca or http://www.faithmatters.ca.