Epiphany of the Lord Sunday Connection

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Sunday Connection

Sunday Connection

God speaks to us in many ways, including through the Sunday Scripture readings. The Sunday Connection provides useful background and activities to better understand the upcoming Sunday's Scripture readings, helping you to connect the Scripture to daily life in a meaningful way.


Epiphany of the Lord

Sunday, January 6, 2019


This Sunday’s Readings


First Reading
Isaiah 60:1-6
Jerusalem shall be a light to all nations.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 72:1-2,7-8,10-11,12-13
Every nation on earth shall worship the Lord.

Second Reading
Ephesians 3:2-3a,5-6
Gentiles are coheirs in the promise of Christ.

Gospel Reading
Matthew 2:1-12
The Magi seek out Jesus and do him homage.

Background on the Gospel Reading

The visit of the Magi occurs directly before the story of the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt. Matthew’s Gospel tells a version of Jesus’ birth that is different than the one in Luke. Of the actual birth of Jesus, Matthew tells us little more than, “When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod . . . ” The story of the census is found only in Luke’s Gospel, but we hear about the visit of the Magi only in Matthew’s Gospel.

We know little about the Magi. They come from the East and journey to Bethlehem, following an astrological sign, so we believe them to be astrologers. We assume that there were three Magi based upon the naming of their three gifts. The Gospel does not say how many Magi paid homage to Jesus. In Matthew’s Gospel, they represent the Gentiles’ search for a savior. Because the Magi represent the entire world, they also represent our search for Jesus.

We have come to consider the gifts they bring as a foreshadowing of Jesus’ role in salvation. We believe the meaning of the gifts to be Christological. Gold is presented as representative of Jesus’ kingship. Frankincense is a symbol of his divinity because priests burned the substance in the Temple. Myrrh, which was used to prepare the dead for burial, is offered in anticipation of Jesus’ death.

The word Epiphany means “manifestation” or “showing forth.” Historically several moments in Christ’s early life and ministry have been celebrated as “epiphanies,” including his birth in Bethlehem, the visit of the Magi, his baptism by John, and his first miracle at Cana.


Gospel Reading
Matthew 2:1-12
The Magi seek out Jesus and do him homage.


Making the Connection (Grades 1, 2, and 3)

Younger children can learn about gift giving and the gifts we can give to honor Jesus as our Savior by hearing about the Magi, who traveled far to honor Jesus with special gifts. 

Materials Needed

  • none

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Ask: If you were going to visit the baby Jesus, what gift would you give him? Why? (Accept all reasonable answers.) Say: Today is the Feast of the Epiphany. We remember that the Magi, or Wise Men, visited Jesus. Let’s listen to learn about their journey and what gifts they gave Jesus to honor him.
  2. Read today’s Gospel, Matthew 2:1–12.
  3. Ask: What gifts did the Magi give Jesus? (gold, frankincense, and myrrh) Say: These gifts tell us that the Magi knew Jesus was our Savior. We are called on this day to give gifts to Jesus. Gifts are not just things. We can give actions and words that show our love for God and for other people. Ask: What gift can you give Jesus that shows your love for God and others? (Accept all reasonable answers, such as sharing a toy with a brother or sister or playing with a new friend.)
  4. Conclude by praying a prayer of thanks for the gift of Jesus and for the Magi, who recognized that Jesus is our Lord and Savior.


Gospel Reading
Matthew 2:1-12
The Magi seek out Jesus and do him homage.


Making the Connection (Grades 4, 5, and 6)

The gifts of the Magi show that they knew Jesus to be the Savior promised by God. By reflecting on the meaning of the Magi’s gifts, we can lead older children to recognize Jesus as their Savior.

Materials Needed

  • A wrapped box to represent the gifts of the Magi

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Place the wrapped box in the prayer space to represent the gifts of the Magi.

  2. Say: Think of the best gift you ever received. What was it? What made it special? Was it the gift itself, the thought that went into it, or the person who gave it to you?

  3. Say: Many people around the world give gifts on the feast of the Epiphany instead of giving gifts on Christmas. As we listen to today’s Gospel, it will become clear why that is.

  4. Invite one or more volunteers to read today’s Gospel, Matthew 2:1-12.

  5. Ask: What gifts were given to Jesus by the Magi? (gold, frankincense, and myrrh) Say: Let me tell you a bit about each of these. Gold is familiar to most of us. We associate gold with wealth and royalty. Frankincense was often used by priests for worship in the Temple. Myrrh is a perfume and was used to prepare a body after death. We often understand this gift to foretell Jesus’ suffering and death.

  6. Ask: What made these gifts special? (Accept all reasonable answers.) Tell the children that these gifts showed that the Magi truly recognized the infant Jesus for who he would be for them and for us: Savior. Say: We too are called this season to offer our gifts to Jesus. What might we offer to show that we recognize who Jesus is? (Accept all reasonable answers.)

  7. Conclude by praying together that we will always recognize Jesus as our Savior, as the Magi did. Sing together “We Three Kings.”


Gospel Reading
Matthew 2:1-12
The Magi seek out Jesus and do him homage.


Making the Connection (Grades 7 and 8)

Young people at this age are attracted to heroes. The genre of superheroes allows young people an opportunity to reflect on the virtues and values of each superhero, whose true identity remains concealed. On the feast of the Epiphany, we celebrate the revealing of Jesus’ true identity as the Messiah.

Materials Needed

  • None

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. As a group, brainstorm a list of superheroes whose true identity is concealed, such as Batman, Superman, and Spider-Man.

  2. Ask if any of these superheroes has had his true identity revealed in movies or TV episodes. (Accept all reasonable answers.)

  3. Say: When a person’s true identity is revealed, the experience can be referred to as an epiphany, a word that means “showing forth.” Today we celebrate the feast of the Epiphany. Let’s listen to the Gospel for this feast to see what or who is being shown forth or revealed.

  4. Invite volunteers to read aloud Matthew 2:1-12.

  5. Ask: Whose identity is revealed in today’s Gospel? (Jesus’) To whom is Jesus’ identity revealed? (the Magi)

  6. Say: The Magi represent Gentiles—all people outside the Jewish world. On the feast of the Epiphany, we celebrate the fact that Jesus is revealed not just to the Jewish people, but to the world. Like the Magi, we search for Jesus. When he is revealed to us, we respond by offering gifts—that which is most valuable to us—to Jesus.

  7. Conclude by praying for the grace to search for Jesus and to offer him the gifts of our lives.


Gospel Reading
Matthew 2:1-12
The Magi seek out Jesus and do him homage.


Family Connection

The tradition of giving gifts at Christmas is thought by some to be rooted in the gift giving of the Magi. In many cultures, gifts are not exchanged at Christmas, but rather on the feast of the Epiphany. Whenever you exchange your Christmas gifts, take some time to reflect on this tradition of gift giving at Christmas. Think of the best gift you have received. What was it? What made it special? Was it the gift itself, the thought that went into it, or the person who gave it to you?

Read today’s Gospel, Matthew 2:1-12. The gifts of the Magi—gold, frankincense, and myrrh—have come to be understood as symbols of Christ’s royalty, divinity, and eventual suffering and death. They are special because in giving them, the Magi acknowledge who Jesus was to be: our Savior. We pray that we will acknowledge Jesus as Savior in all that we do and say. Conclude by singing together “We Three Kings.”