Feast of the Epiphany in the Modern Day – Lesson Plan Activities


Background to the Feast of the Epiphany
The Epiphany is a celebration of the ‘revelation’ of God in human flesh. Today the Epiphany is celebrated on the Sunday between January 2nd and 8th while the actual feast day occurs on January 6th. In many European countries it is the Epiphany, rather than Christmas (Feast of the Nativity), is the day of gift-giving. This is in commemoration of the gifts of the Magi taken from Matthew 2:1-12. 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 travelling 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 emperor; he was to usher in a new kingdom that extended beyond political regimes.

· SWBAT compare and contrast the Visit of the Magi and a modern day version of the visit.
· 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.

Graphic organizer, (modern-day version of the story), paragraph explanation of the similarities

1. 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. Read Matthew’s account of the Visit of the Magi (Matthew 2:1-12)
3. 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.
Option #1
Have students create a modern-day version of the Visit of the Magi. Give them this simple chart as pre-writing:

Newborn king of the Jews =
Bethlehem =
Herod =
3 Magi =
Star =
Gifts (Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh) =

Option #2
Read a pre-prepared modern-day version of the Visit of the Magi (see below). Have students complete this simple graphic organizer individually, in groups, or as a class.

Newborn king of the Jews =
Bethlehem =
Herod =
3 Magi =
Star =
Gifts (Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh) =

5. Have students write WHY the two stories were similar. If they have created their own stories, they should be able to justify why they chose the people they chose as substitutes for the magi. The magi should be foreigners coming to a foreign land to do homage to a Christ. It is important that students be able to explain the universal role of Christ.

Modern Day Version of the Epiphany

Newborn king of the Jews = newborn President of the United States
Bethlehem = South Bend, IN
Herod = FBI Director
3 Magi = Muslim Imam from Iraq, Hindu Priest from India, and Atheist Scientist from China
Star = E-mails
Gifts (Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh) = Oil (Iraq), Silk (India), Supercomputer (China)

When Jesus was born in South Bend, Indiana during the presidency of Barack Obama, three individuals arrived in the United States from all over the world looking for the newborn President of the United States. These travelers were very diverse. One Muslim Imam came from Iraq bearing oil. The second man was a Hindu priest from India bearing the finest silk from his country. The third traveler was an atheist scientist from China who brought with him a supercomputer to give to the newborn president. They were, however, flagged as terrorists and arrested by the United States FBI once each of their planes landed. The FBI agents interrogated each of them but were astonished by the identical stories. Each man had received emails summoning them to visit South Bend, Indiana where the new President of the all was born. After some investigation, the FBI could not determine the source of the emails. The FBI instructed the accused to proceed with their visit under surveillance and with hidden microphones. When they arrived in South Bend, they found the baby with his mother and immediately knelt in homage to him. They presented the baby and his mother with the gifts they had brought him and after a short while they left to return home to their countries. The scientist was able to modify the surveillance technology and arrange for them to leave the country in private jets so that they could avoid the FBI.


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Jared Dees is the creator of The Religion Teacher. He is the Content Marketing Manager at Ave Maria Press and the author of 31 Days to Becoming a Better Religious Educator, To Heal, Proclaim, and Teach, and Praying the Angelus.


  1. allison says:

    Super creative ideas. What a great resource this site is going to be for me!

  2. Lesley Hutchinson says:

    A wonderful modern twist to a powerful and ancient story. Thank you

  3. Great lesson plan Jared!

  4. Sherry says:

    Thanks so much for this. A great film to watch at this time is the Fourth Wiseman, based on the short story “Another Wiseman” by Henry Van Dyke.

  5. Judith Navarro says:

    Thank you for this idea, I love it. I will be trying this lesson tomorrow. I will let you know how it went.

  6. Virginia says:

    I used this lesson plan last year and I am using it again this year. It worked out well, especially with a group of kids who do not necessarily learn through the written word. GREAT class participation!

  7. Virginia says:

    I used this lesson plan last year and it worked really well. I am using it again this year. It works well with a group of kids who are not necessarily book learners. It also works for those really creative students.