The Linked Parishes of  Pope John XXIII  &  Christ The King
2020-21 Faith Formation Program

Middle Grades
Session 3 - Advent & Christmas

O Come, O Come Emmanuel is really an Advent song, not specifically a Christmas song. Advent is a time when we are preparing for Christmas - preparing to celebrate the birth of God's son, Jesus.

The meaning of Emmanuel is “God with us.” The promised child was given the name of Jesus but was also Emmanuel, God in the flesh.

The first lyrics are:

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

The lyrics say:

Please Come Emmanuel

And save from those who enslave us

Israel mourns alone

Until your Son comes to us

advent 2.jpg


Advent is actually the start of the Christian year, and begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. The word comes from the Latin word adventus—a translation of the Greek word parousia, which means, “coming.” The season of Advent encourages the church to look back and remember the birth of Christ, while looking forward in anticipation to the second coming of Jesus.


The waiting for Jesus began a long time ago as God decided to form a people of his own.  In the days of the Old Testament, Abraham and his wife Sarah were living comfortably in a city named Haran when God came to Abraham and told him to travel to a new land, Canaan, many miles away.

This would not be easy for Abraham to do because he would have to leave his home and all the people he knew.  God promised Abraham and Sarah that they would be the first of his chosen people.  The savior would be a descendant of Abraham and he would bring salvation to the whole world.

Abraham and Sarah did as God asked and went to Canaan.  For thousands of years, the people of Abraham, the Jews, waited for God to fulfill His promise.  Mary, one of Abraham's descendants, gave birth to Jesus - keeping God's promise.

What makes the season of advent special?


Why do we see the color purple and use the advent wreath?

The Meaning of the Advent Wreath
Three Wise Men

At Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus.  One of the Stories we often hear told at Christmas is the story of the Three Kings, or the Three Wise Men.  We're going to look at their story a little deeper.

This cute video contains a lot of  background information for the story of the Wise Men.  It actually goes a little farther to show what happened AFTER they visited

All four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke & John) tell stories of Jesus' life.  But, each Gospel contains details and stories not found in the other three. The story of the Wise Men is one of them.

The original story can be found in Matthew Chapter 2.


They had seen a star and they considered it a sign that the King of the Jews had been born, so they traveled to Jerusalem to find the child.

We actually don't know much about these mysterious magi.  All we know is what we read in the short passage in Matthew.


How Many Wise Men were there?

If you said 3 - look at the bible passage...where does it tell you that?  It doesn't!

The Scriptures do not reveal how many there were, or their names.   More on that later!

Wise Men Come to Visit Jesus

International Children's Bible



Jesus was born in the town of Bethlehem in Judea during the time when Herod was king. After Jesus was born, some wise men from the east came to Jerusalem. They asked, “Where is the baby who was born to be the king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east. We came to worship him.”


When King Herod heard about this new king of the Jews, he was troubled. And all the people in Jerusalem were worried too. Herod called a meeting of all the leading priests and teachers of the law. He asked them where the Christ would be born. They answered, “In the town of Bethlehem in Judea. The prophet wrote about this in the Scriptures.

Then Herod had a secret meeting with the wise men from the east. He learned from them the exact time they first saw the star. Then Herod sent the wise men to Bethlehem. He said to them, “Go and look carefully to find the child. When you find him, come tell me. Then I can go worship him too.”


The wise men heard the king and then left. They saw the same star they had seen in the east. It went before them until it stopped above the place where the child was. When the wise men saw the star, they were filled with joy.


They went to the house where the child was and saw him with his mother, Mary. They bowed down and worshiped the child. They opened the gifts they brought for him. They gave him treasures of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.


But God warned the wise men in a dream not to go back to Herod. So they went home to their own country by a different way.


What is documented, however, is that they followed a star and travelled a great distance to Bethlehem in search of the newborn king of the Jews.


The ancients believed that, at the time of a king’s birth, a new star would appear in the night sky.


The Magi traveled for a long time.  Their first stop was to visit King Herod in Jerusalem because they thought that the King of the Jews would be born in a palace.


Herod was furious because he did not know that Jesus’ kingdom would be a heavenly one and he thought that his power was in danger.   He wanted to know more about this possible competitor. His priests and scribes told him that such a king was to be born in Bethlehem.

Herod sent for the three wise men and told them to go to Bethlehem and report their findings to him.

The star guided the men to Bethlehem where they discovered the child in the house the star stood over. Upon finding Jesus, they knelt down and did him homage.


Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.


Today, these gifts carry little significance, but to those who heard and read this account at that time, the gifts spoke volumes.




An epiphany is becoming aware of something.  The day on which we celebrate the visit of the Magi to Jesus after His birth we call EPIPHANY.  This is the day that Jesus was revealed as the savior to the world


Matthew tells us that the first people to recognize Jesus as king of the Jews and adore him are the magi who are from the east—not Jewish. This shows that Jesus’ kingship is not only for Israel, but is for the world.


Jesus of Nazareth is indeed the long-awaited Messiah of Jewish prophecy and expectation—the anointed one and heir to King David’s throne. But more than that, he is savior of the entire world.



GOLD is a precious metal symbolic of royalty and wealth. In ancient times it was common to give gold as a sign of tribute to a new king.

FRANINCENSE is an aromatic tree resin. Its name comes from incense of Franks since it was reintroduced to Europe by Frankish Crusaders. It was used by Jewish priests in temple rituals. The gift is symbolic of Jesus’ role as eternal High Priest and of his sacrificial offering.

MYRRH is a gum resin used in making ointments and perfumes. It was also used in the embalming of the dead—a symbol of Jesus’ future suffering and death


That night, God told them in their dreams to ignore Herod's orders. The next day the Magi departed, avoiding Jerusalem on their way home.

Herod was furious that he had been tricked by the Wise Men.


Definitions from FINDING GOD Loyola Press


the four weeks before Christmas.  It is a joyful time of preparation for the celebration of Jesus' birth as our savior.


Jesus, the son of God, who became human to forgive our sins and restore our friendship with God.  Jesus means "God Saves"


To show; to reveal; to become aware

The day on which we celebrate the visit of the Magi to Jesus after His birth.  This is the day that Jesus was revealed as the savior to the world

So Why Do We Say There Were Three?

I Thought We Knew Their Names?

Since three gifts are mentioned, tradition has placed their number at three.  It's as simple as that!


Since the bible story in Matthew does not give us much information, we don't actually know their names either!  Some time before 600 AD, tradition had given the names Gaspar, Melchior and Balthazar.

Legends are told about them and they have been given names. This is how they are often described:

  • Gaspar (or Caspar), who has brown hair and a brown beard (or no beard!) and wears a green cloak and a gold crown with green jewels on it. He is the King of Sheba. Gaspar represents the Frankincense brought to Jesus.

  • Melchior, who has long white hair and a white beard and wears a gold cloak. He is the King of Arabia. Melchior represents the Gold brought to Jesus.

  • Balthazar, who has black skin and a black beard (or no beard!) and wears a purple cloak. He is the King of Tarse and Egypt. Balthazar represents the gift of Myrrh that was brought to Jesus.



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