This one works well with older children – maybe primary age. Not so good with toddlers. But can be done well by family groups. It uses a simple origami star craft activity – a video demonstration of this part of it is linked below.
1. Talk about what everyone’s favourite Christmas presents were – what made them just right? What would be the best presents for a baby?
2. Talk about the gifts that the magi brought, and why there were just right, even though they look a little unusual at first.
Gold is precious – it’s expensive, and it lasts, so we use it for things that mean a lot to us, such as wedding rings. The gold was given as a symbol of our offering of the most important things that we have. The gold is a sign of something important about Jesus, like a wedding ring is a sign of love.
Frankincense makes the most wonderful-smelling smoke – it’s as if we can see our prayers and songs rising up for God to breathe in and enjoy. All our hearts’ longings, our joys and sorrows, our hopes and dreams, breathed in by God in our prayer and worship.
Myrrh is harsh, but healing – like the antiseptic that stings as it we put it on, but helps a wound to heal. It reminds us of hard times – illness, grief – but also of God’s ability to bring healing and life.
3. Give out long strips of paper – maybe 2 feet long, by 3cm wide (I cut mine from a roll of paper) and pens. Ask the children or family groups to use just one end of their paper strip for this activity.
Remind them that God gave the magi something they needed – a star to follow. On one side of the paper, ask them to write down something that they still need as a gift, for the coming year. This isn’t a ‘thing’ like a new toy, but a more personal gift, such as more patience when school work is a struggle, or when younger siblings are frustrating! Or more time to relax (particularly for parents!). Or help with making new friends, if that’s been a challenge before. Or help making a big decision, or facing a big change.
Remind them that the magi also gave something to Jesus – their gifts of gold, incense and myrrh. On the other side of the same end of the paper strip, ask them to write down a gift that they already have that they would like to offer to God – this might be just a lot of smiles that they can use to brighten up God’s world, it might be a certain amount of time each day just to be with God, or it might be a particular talent that can be offered.
4. Take one of the strips as an example, and follow the instructions in this video to make it into a 3D star. (These aren’t hard to make, but you will need to practice in advance – I don’t recommend trying to teach how to do it in your children’s session, as it can be frustrating when it doesn’t work first time! If you have teenage or adult helpers, you might like to teach them how to do it in advance, so that they can help you make all the strips into stars on the day).
As you start to make the star:
– tie the knot in the end with the writing on, so that it will be hidden in the heart of the star by the time you have finished.
– as you tie the knot, explain that when something was important to remember, people used to tie a knot in a hanky to remind them.
– as you wrap the strip around the pentagon shape, say that when something really matters we want to protect it and keep it carefully, so we might wrap it up. You might also like to compare it to wrapping a present, or even (going back to the myrrh and the healing) bandaging a sore finger etc.
It’s a good idea to get the children to decorate their stars to make them personalised – they’ll need to be a bit careful so they don’t squash them accidentally!
5. When everyone’s paper strips have been made into stars, encourage the children to hold their star in the palm of their hand, and remember what they wrote in the heart of it. Ask them to think about what they need and what they have to offer this coming year, and ask God to bless those thoughts.