Week 1: Art – Reflection
Reading of biblical passage (include audio recording so that group can reflect on the art as they hear the biblical message)
Instruction to the group leader: Before you begin the reading, discuss the meaning of the following terms;
Terms to understand/discuss:
Magi: kings, astrologers, wise men. They are not named in the Gospels but tradition provides their names: Melchior came from Persia, Gaspar (also called “Caspar” or “Jaspar”) from India, and Balthazar from Arabia. — three kings. They follow a star and come to pay homage to the baby Jesus in Bethlehem. The Bible, does not call them kings but rather “wise men from the East.” We don’t know the exact number.
Star of Bethlehem: the Gospel of Matthew speaks of a star appearing in the night sky and guiding the Magi to the place where Christ was born. Scientifically, some astronomers suggest they it might have been the convergence of two planets which should have happened at around the same time as the birth of Christ, but most believers just accept the miracle of the Star of Bethlehem.
Judah: the biblical kingdom of the Hebrews located in Southern Palestine
Judea: the Latin (Roman) name for Judah
King Herod: also known as Herod the Great, appointed by the Romans to rule Judea during the time of Christ’s birth. The New Testament suggests that he was a tyrant. In fact, history portrays him as a tyrant and reports that shortly after the birth of Christ, because of his paranoia and fear that the King of the Jews had been born, he ordered that all infant boys under the age of two in Bethlehem be killed. We call this historical event the “Massacre of the Innocents.”
Why Gold, Frankincense, Myrrh? The gifts of the Magi had special meanings: gold signified Jesus’ status as “King of the Jews;” frankincense represented the child’s divinity and his identity as the Son of God; and myrrh reflected Jesus’ mortality.
Epiphany: a Christian feast, observed on January 6, commemorating the manifestation of Christ to the gentiles in the persons of the Magi. It is also known as Theophany (revelation of God incarnate as Jesus Christ) in the east.
The Difference — The Christmas Story in the four Gospels: Many of us may believe that we can search any of the four gospels and read about all the events in Christ’s life. But, in fact, each Gospel provides unique details based on the writers’ experience and interviews and research. Take for example Christ’s life from his birth to the beginning of his public life. Each evangelist (writer) teases us with different facets of His birth. In John, we are told of the incarnation of Christ, that the “Word was made flesh and made his dwelling among us.” No other reference is made to the actual event of Christ’s birth. Matthew, on the other hand, describes his birth – the manger scene, the announcement of the birth to the shepherds and their arrival at the site of his birth, the appearance of the Christmas star and the Magi’s journey to Herod and their visit to the Christ Child, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, the Holy Family’s escape to Egypt and the killing of the holy innocents. Luke shares the story of the birth and the presentation of Christ at the temple. Together, the Evangelists bring the story of Christ’s birth, his geneology and early years to life vividly, inspiring writers and believers to re-live it every year as the most reverenced event of all time with the exception of his passion, death and resurrection.
(Note to Group Leader: In preparation for this Bible Study on the story of the Epiphany, you may want to plan to show the artwork on a large TV or screen, or you may want to print out it to give to the group. Once the art is ready to be used, prepare to read or play the biblical passage.)
Group leader guide says to the group:
Relax with the art, follow the story and use the art to carry you into the setting… You are there … Where do you see yourself in the painting? Who are you? One of the cherubs? Are you one of the Magi? If so, what gift do you bring to the Christ Child? Why? Are you a reporter giving a moment-by-moment account of the Magi’s visit? Someone else?
Group leader: Read the passage or turn on the recording of the passage:
Discussion questions based on listening of the passage: Where did you see yourself in the painting? Who were you? One of the cherubs? Were you one of the Magi? If so, what gift do you bring to the Christ Child? Why? Were you a reporter giving a moment-by-moment account of the Magi’s visit? Someone else?