Jesus’ Birth A to Z Week 4: the Birth of John

BIBLE STORY OF THE WEEK:  Luke 1:39-45, 57-66 NRSV

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40 where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42 and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43 And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44 For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”

57 Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. 58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her.

59 On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him Zechariah after his father. 60 Buthis mother said, “No; he is to be called John.” 61 They said to her, “None of your relatives has this name.” 62 Then they began motioning to his father to find out what name he wanted to give him. 63 He asked for a writing tablet and wrote,“His name is John.” And all of them were amazed. 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he began to speak, praising God. 65 Fear came over all their neighbors, and all these things were talked about throughout the entire hill country of Judea. 66 All who heard them pondered them and said, “What then will this child become?” For, indeed, the hand of the Lord was with him.

COLORING PAGE:

http://www.supercoloring.com/pages/zechariah-elizabeth-and-baby-john-the-baptist

PRAYERS & QUESTIONS:

Sunday:  Luke 1:39-40

Dear God, please bless me when I travel.  Bless all those who are on theroad, or rail, or in the air today, that they may arrive at their destinations safely.  Amen.

Tell a story about a time when you went on a trip.  How did you travel?  What was the journey like?  Who did you visit and why?

Monday:  Luke 1:41-42

Dear God, watch over all of those who arepregnant today.  Keep them and their children safe, and make it a joyful time of wonder.  Amen.

Have you ever gotten to feel a baby move in someone’s stomach?  What did it feel like?  What do you think it means that John recognized Mary, even in the womb?

Tuesday:  Luke 1:43-45

Dear God, as I prepare to be a guest and a host this season, help me to remember to take the time to prepare for your coming.  Take the “bah!” out of my “humbug.”  Amen.

When is a time when you were received as a guest?  What made it comfortable to be a guest?  Uncomfortable?  In what ways can you work on being hospitable like Elizabeth?

Wednesday:  Luke 1:57-58

Dear Jesus, have care for all who are giving birth today.  Help me to rejoice at the gifts of life that you constantly give through your great mercy.  Amen.

What do you think it would have been like to have been present at the birth of John? Do you know the story of your birth? What are your favorite stories about children being born?

Thursday:  Luke 1:59-61

Dear God, I thank you for my name.  Help me to remember that names are powerful, and to use them kindly with those I meet. Amen.

What is the significance of your name?  Find out what it means, or why you were named what you were named.  Why do you think it makes a difference that God chose John’s name?

Friday:  Luke 1:62-64

O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall declare your praise.  Help me to always use my speech in a meaningful and holy way. Amen.

What do you think it would be like to finally be able to speak after a long time of silence?  Why do you think the first words out of Zechariah’s mouth were praise of God? How do you use your speech to praise God?

Saturday:  Luke 1:65-66

Dear God, I ask for your blessing on my life today.  Empower me to be a blessing to those you place in my path today. Amen.

What do you think it means that the hand of the Lord was with baby John?  Do you think that the “hand of the Lord” has ever been with you? Could this phrase be tied to the presence of God’s blessing?

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Jesus’ Birth A to Z Week 2: Zechariah

BIBLE STORY OF THE WEEK:  Luke 1:5-25 NRSV

In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years.

    8 Once when he was serving as priest before God and his section was on duty, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense. 10 Now at the time of the incense offering, the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. 11 Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him. 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. 14 You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. 16 He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” 18 Zechariah said to the angel, “How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.” 19 The angel replied, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20 But now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occur.”

    21 Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah, and wondered at his delay in the sanctuary. 22 When he did come out, he could not speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He kept motioning to them and remained unable to speak. 23 When his time of service was ended, he went to his home.

    24 After those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she remained in seclusion. She said, 25 “This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favorably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people.”

COLORING PAGE:

https://www.deviantart.com/art/Advent-Coloring-Page-Zechariah-269636075

Zechariah

PRAYERS & QUESTIONS:

Sunday:  Luke 1:5-7

Lord God, I know that you can do miraculous things.  Make the impossible possible, so that all may know your power.  Amen.

Have you ever prayed for a miracle?  What are some impossible things that God has done for you?

Monday:  Luke 1:8-10

Dear Lord, you are worthy of worship and praise.  Help me to remember to honor you, on special days and every day.  Amen.

What do you pray about?  What do you hope for when you come to a worship service at church?  What do you think God desires from our worship?

Tuesday:  Luke 1:11-13

Dear Jesus, I know that you show up when I am afraid.  Help me to know that you are with me, no matter what. Amen.

Describe a time when you have been afraid.  What or who helped you to get through that scary time?  Does it make a difference to know that God is with you in times of fear?

Wednesday:  Luke 1:14-16

God of all, I thank you that you lead me and guide me.  When I stray, help me to turn around, to turn always toward you.  Amen.

Have you ever had a time in your life when you were tempted to do something wrong, and then turned away from doing it?  Have you ever helped someone else to get back on the right path?

Thursday:  Luke 1:17-19

Dear God, I thank you for the age that I am.  Help me to do the impossible with the wonderful gifts you have given to me.  Amen.

Have you ever been told that you were too young or too old for something?  What did that experience feel like?  What age of people do you think God likes to use?

Friday:  Luke 1:20-22

(Instead of using words in your prayers today, take the time to take five deep, slow breaths and listen for God to speak.)

Have you ever had a time when you were unable to speak?  What about a time when you took the time to listen?  What would it be like to not be able to speak for nine months?

Saturday:  Luke 1:23-25

Dear Jesus, you know our hearts.  Help me to look past the surface and give everyone the benefit of the doubt.  Amen.

Have you ever had a time when people changed their opinion about you for the better?  What about when your opinion was changed about someone else?  What do think God’s opinion was?

Jesus’ Birth A to Z week 1: Christ the King

BIBLE STORY OF THE WEEK:  Luke 1:46-56 NRSV

And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
56 And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.

COLORING PAGE: 

http://insurestreet.co/crown-coloring-pages/crown-coloring-pages-crown-coloring-pages-best-king-royal-party-images-on-queen-crown-coloring-pages/

Christ the King

PRAYERS & QUESTIONS:

Sunday:  Luke 1:46-47

Dear Jesus, I have joy in my soul because of you!  Make my actions help others to see you.    Amen.

In what way does your life point out Jesus to others?  What about God causes you to rejoice?

Monday:  Luke 1:48-49

Dear God, I thank you for the many blessings that you have given me.  Help me to be a blessing to others.  Amen.

In what ways do you consider yourself to be blessed?  What are the blessings that God has given to you?

Tuesday:  Luke 1:50

Dear God, I am amazed by all that you do.  Help me to always show love and respect to you.  Amen.

What do you think it means to have a healthy respect for, or fear of, God?  In what ways do you show respect to God?  How do you disrespect God?

Wednesday:  Luke 1:51

(Offer those things which are on your heart or minds today to God using your own words.)

What are the thoughts that are on your heart today?  They might be joyful, or sad, or clear, or murky.  What it is like to know that God shares your thoughts?

Thursday:  Luke 1:52-53

Dear Jesus, you turn the world upside down.  Open my eyes to see those in need and to be your hands & feet of help and compassion.  Amen.

When is a time that you remember being hungry?  What are some ways that you and your family can help those who are hungry on a regular basis?

Friday:  Luke 1:54-55

Dear God, you are faithful, forever and ever.  Help me to be faithful in keeping the promises that I have made.  Amen.

What kind of promises have you made?  How have you been faithful or unfaithful in keeping them?  What kind of promises has God made to you?  How has God been faithful?

Saturday:  Luke 1:56

Dear Jesus, I thank you that I have a home in you.  Please make me mindful of those who have no homes, or do not have safe homes in which to live.  Amen.

Describe the place that you call home.  What does it feel like, smell like, look like, taste like?  What does it mean to you to “be at home”?  Who does God figure in to this equation?

Children’s Devotion Time December 2017: Jesus, the Word

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One of the churches in our parish has begun having inter-generational Sunday School once per month.  We call it “Children’s Devotion Time” or “CDT.”  Each child in the class has an older adult who serves as an individual mentor during devotion time.  It includes an opening prayer, a large group Bible Story, an age-appropriate leaflet about the day that they work on in child/adult pairs, a closing prayer, and a simple craft.  It is based on Family God Time, but done at church and for a larger group.  Join us in this new faith formation experiment!

You can learn more about just how we have set this up here: Children’s Devotion Time Instructions

Large Group Gathering Prayer: (Do this prayer repeat-after-me style)
Dear Jesus, we thank you for this time to learn more about how you are the Word of God, the Lord of Life, and the Light of the World.  Help us to learn and grow together.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Large Group Bible Story:  John 1:1-18
Read about Jesus, the Word in a children’s Bible, your own Bible, or you can find the story here:  https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+1%3A1-18&version=ERV

We used the Whirl Lectionary Story Bible for our resource.  It was the story called “Jesus, the Word.”  You can purchase your own copy here: https://www.wearesparkhouse.org/store/product/19372/Whirl-Story-Bible-Lectionary-Edition

Work in Pairs:
Each child/adult pair has a four-page leaflet to work on which is developmentally appropriate for the child.  They work through the leaflet together, taking as much time as they need.  This month, I developed the resource specifically for our children.  You can access it here (John 1 leaflet), or use the children’s bulletin from your church.

Large Group Closing Prayer: (Do this prayer repeat-after-me style)
Dear Jesus, we thank you that you are the Word, our Life, and our Light.  Help us bring your Word to those who need Light in their Life.  In your name we pray, Amen.

Activity:  Candle Chrismons
Chrismons are Christian Christmas tree decorations that tell the story of Jesus.  They are white and gold to remind us that Jesus is pure and holy, as well as king of all creation.  You can learn more about Chrismons here:  http://www.chrismon.org/chrismons-ministry.html Because we talked about Jesus as the light of the world during this devotion time, I thought it would be neat to do a candle Chrismon for the Christmas trees of our families.  If you make extra, feel free to bring them to area nursing homes, the shut-ins of your congregation, or give them out when you are Christmas caroling this season!

Supplies needed
Candle outline, printed on cardstock (Candle Chrismons)
white craft foam
glue
gold or white ribbon, for hangers
gold metallic Sharpies
white glitter
gold glitter
white glitter glue
gold glitter glue

1. Cut out the candle outline and glue it to the craft foam PRINTED SIDE DOWN, sandwiching the ends of the ribbon in between the two pieces. This will give you both an outline to cut out and a firm backing for your Chrismon.  When the glue is dry, cut out the foam.  I did this in advance.

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2.  Outline the foam side of the Chrismon in gold Sharpie. Decorate with glitter and glitter glue, as desired.

3.  When it is fully dry, hang it on your Christmas tree, or in another prominent spot where you will see it often.

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© 2017 by Pastor Breen Marie Sipes, Tri-Saints Lutheran Parish, Byron and Hardy, Nebraska.  https://familygodtime.wordpress.com Please give credit where credit is due!

Advent 2017: #jesusbirthatoz

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This Advent, our entire parish is diving deeply into the story of Jesus’ birth, including all of the stories around Jesus’ birth from the Gospels of Luke and Matthew.  I am in the process of writing a daily devotion for the entire parish, which is gathered weekly into our “The Story of the Birth of Jesus from Beginning to End” flip book.  The resource is written toward my confirmation students, who are in fifth-eighth grade, but each day has elements that can be appreciated by younger children and adults, as well.

In our house, we have decided to make it a daily time at supper.  After our meal prayer and while the food is being served, our second grader reads the Bible verses and the questions for the day and shows us the picture.  As we eat, each of us has the opportunity to answer the questions for the day at our own level (I sometimes have to rephrase them for our four-year-olds).  Before everyone leaves the table, one of the children leads us in the prayer for the day repeat-after-me style (I whisper it into the ears of the ones who can’t yet read).

We are only a few days into the devotion, but I am encouraged by how interested they are in it.  We will be talking about it at church, as well, and given opportunities to decorate it each week as we wish.

If you and your family would like to use this resource, you can find it at https://goodgodideas.wordpress.com/category/jesusbirthatoz/

New devotions will be available each week until January 21, so check back often.  I hope that this season is meaningful for you and your family!

Follow the Star Week 4: Advent 2016

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“For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.”
–The words of the wise men in Matthew 2:2

For those churches which follow a three year cycle of Sunday readings, called the Revised Common Lectionary, this year most of our readings about Jesus will be from the Gospel of Matthew.  I love the year of Matthew, because this year is the one that tells us the story of the wise men which appear on Epiphany.  Because of its emphasis on the wise men, I thought it might be fun to go star-crazy this year from Advent to Epiphany.  We continue the season with a four week craft which builds on itself as we watch the star rise to show the way to Jesus.

If you missed week 1, you can find it here:  https://familygodtime.wordpress.com/2016/11/25/follow-the-star-week-1-advent-2016/

If you missed week 2, you can find it here:  https://familygodtime.wordpress.com/2016/12/01/follow-the-star-week-2-advent-2016/

If you missed week 3, you can find it here:  https://familygodtime.wordpress.com/2016/12/08/follow-the-star-week-3-advent-2016/

Supplies needed per star:
Week 4:
Clear flat ½” marble
Black paint marker
Gold puffy paint
Paintbrush
1 Permanent Glue Dot

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Gathering:  Light your Advent wreath, get out your Advent Spiral, or turn on the Christmas tree so that your family knows something special is about to happen.

Gathering Prayer: (repeat-after-me style)
Dear God, we thank you for time to spend together as a family as we wait for Jesus to come.  Help this time to be a holy time.

Bible Story:
Ask your kids to tell you the story of Jesus being born.  If they can’t come up with it off hand, you might want to get out a nativity set and have them tell you about all of the pieces.  You can also use this to help them to learn the story.  A Children’s Bible or Children’s Christmas story book might also come in handy.  If you are stumped, you can watch this short video:

After you have sorted out the story, remind them:  There were lots of people waiting for Jesus to be born.  Angels.  Mary.  Joseph.  Shepherds.  Sheep!  Who was the group who came from the farthest away?  The wise men!  They had been watching the sky for a special star that would tell them that an important king had been born.  We know this because, in the Epiphany story, the wise men tell the people in Jerusalem, “For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.”

This year during Advent, we are going to wait for Jesus like the wise men, watch his star rise, and celebrate when he is born!

Craft:  Popsicle Stick Star
Instructions for Week 4:

  1. Position your marble so that it is flat side up.  Use the paint marker to draw a small cross on the flat surface.  Dry completely.

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  1. Add a small dot of gold glitter puffy paint to the flat surface.  Using the paint brush, gently move the paint around until it is evenly distributed over the whole flat surface.  Dry completely.

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  1. Flip the marble over.  It should look like this:

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  1. Using the permanent Glue Dot or other permanent glue, attach the marble to the apex of the star.

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When you have finished making your star(s), hang them ¾ of the way up your Christmas tree, or put it somewhere off the floor but not too high.  It will not arrive at the top of the tree until Christmas Eve!

If you’d like to go star-crazy with us, here is another star that you and your family can make this week:  https://familygodtime.wordpress.com/2016/12/12/follow-the-star-2016-star-cookie-decorating/

Song:  I Wonder As I Wander
You might be wondering why we would add a cross, the symbol of Jesus’ death, to our star celebrating Jesus’ birth.  This song is the answer.  I hope you enjoy it.

Closing Prayer: (repeat-after-me style)
Dear Jesus, you are our bright morning star.  As we watch our little stars rise, help us to follow where you lead, both now and always.  In your name we pray, Amen.

Follow the Star 2016: Star Cookie Decorating

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photo by 40542289@N02 on flickr.com

 

I told you that we were going to go star crazy this Advent, so here is another star to work on.  They are sure to be tasty, too!

Note:  for steps one through three, I asked a grandma in our congregation to provide the pre-baked cookies for our activity.  She was more than happy to do so!

  1. Make or purchase dough.
  2. Cut out stars and bake.
  3. Cool completely.
  4. Mix or purchase your favorite frosting, and add yellow food coloring.  Here is what we used:

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  1. Frost cookies and add clear sugar.
  2. Eat, share, and enjoy!

Have fun following the star with the wise men this Advent!