Note: This is written as a two-part lesson, the first being a lesson on the wise men themselves and the second being the spiritual application as described in the article. Either part can be given separately. They are suitable for older children, teens and adults and includes adaptations for children as well.
Part 1: With Wisdom They Came
1. Attention Activity: Show a picture of the wise men from the gospel art kit or a church magazine. The picture from the Gospel Art Kit is available at LDS.org. Ask your family to share what they know about the wise men.
2. Scripture Reading: Open the New Testament to Matthew, chapter 2, and read about the wise men. Matthew is the only book in the New Testament that mentions them. Help them to decide if what they thought they knew was correct.
3. Scholarly Informatin: If your family is old enough, read this article in the Ensign, which is available online at I Have A Question. (You will need to scroll part-way down the article to find the information about the wise men and the star.) In this article, John A. Tvedtnes, specialist in ancient Near Eastern studies and instructor at the Brigham Young University-Salt Lake Center, discusses what is known about the Wise Men and the star. Your family may realize they have believed things that are tradition, not necessarily truth. For example, we do not really know how many wise men there were, and yet most people quickly say there were three when asked.
4. Game: If your family has younger children, you may prefer to simply make a copy of the article available to those old enough to be interested, and discuss the highlights with your younger family members. Following is a quiz, based on the information in this article. You can hand out printed copies of the quiz (copy and paste the questions into a word processing program, deleting or moving the answers.) or you can use them in a game. For example, you can print both the questions and answers on separate sheets of paper. Choose a way to make the questions and answers look different on the back side, perhaps printing them on different colors of paper or putting a sticker on the backs of the answers. Spread them out on the floor, face down. Play a version of memory. The first player selects a question card. He then selects an answer card and hands it to the person to his left without turning it over. He reads the question, including the number of the question. The person holding his answer card tells him whether the answer number matches the question number. If it does, he chooses an answer from the three choices. The person holding the answer card tells him if his answer is correct. If it is correct, he reads the background information if any is included and the cards are set aside so they arenít chosen again. If it is not, he reads only the short answer and both family members return their cards to the floor. The person who held the answer card gets the next turn. There are only five questions, so younger children might partner with an older person. Family members should be encouraged to help each other in order to avoid competition.
Question 1: What type of building did the wise men find Jesus in?
Choose the Right:
A. In a house
B. In a Stable
C. In a temple.
Answer 1: A. In a house.
(Background information: The wise men did not come when the shepherds did. They came long after the family had left the stable.)
Question 2: How long after Jesusí birth did the wise men arrive?
Choose the Right:
A. The day he was born
B. Two years after he was born
C. We donít know for sure.
Answer 2: C. We donít know for sure.
(Background information: It is generally believed they arrived about two years after he was born, but we donít really know. Herod ordered the death of all children under the age of two, which is why many believe Jesus might have been two years old.)
Question 3: How did the wise men travel to the baby Jesus?
Choose the Right:
A. We donít know.
B. They walked.
C. They rode camels.
Answer 3: A We donít know. The scriptures donít tell us.
Question 4: How many wise men were there?
Choose the right:
C. We donít know.
Answer 4: C. We donít know.
(Background: Most people say there were three because there were three types of gifts. Some traditions say twelve but the scriptures donít say at all.)
Question 5: What gifts did the wise men bring?
Choose the right:
A. silk, diamonds, pearls
B. Gold, silk, a crown
C. Gold, frankincense, myrrh
Answer 5: C. Gold, Frankincense, myrrh.
Activities for younger children:
1. Make a nativity set. Patterns are available from the Friend.
2. Bring out a family nativity set and act out the Christmas story with the pieces. Be sure to show the wise men traveling far in the distance.
3. Have your children draw the wise men. Cut them out and glue them onto construction paper. Then have them draw scenery around the cutout pieces. You can make the men stand out by placing accordion-folded strips of paper behind each one.
4. Point out that we donít know if the wise men were kings, but some people think they were. Make crowns and write on them, "I will seek the Savior."
Extensions for homeschool:
1. Have your children write a story from the point of view of one of the wise men. They can imagine the details we donít know, but should be reasonably accurate. For instance, they can not have the wise men playing video games or wearing jeans.
2. The article suggests various places the wise men might have come from. Look at these places on the map. Figure out what routes the wise men could have followed.
3. The article used for this lesson talks about Marco Polo. Read a book about him. Older students should research what he taught us about the wise men.
Activities for older students:
1. Discuss the challenges the wise men might have faced on their journey. What would be required to make such a journey? Why would they spend so many years in this pursuit?
2. What qualities do you think the wise men needed to be successful on their journey? How can you incorporate those standards in your own life? Write a paper on this subject.
Wise Men Follow the Star