Jesus’ Birth A to Z week 7: Simeon & Anna

BIBLE STORY OF THE WEEK: Luke 2:21-38 NRSV

After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.  22 When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), 24 and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, 29 “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation, 31which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”

33 And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed 35 so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”36 There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.

COLORING PAGE:

https://www.deviantart.com/the-z/art/Advent-Coloring-Page-Simeon-269636401

PRAYERS & QUESTIONS:

Sunday:  Luke 2:21

Dear Jesus, I thank you for placing me into a family.  Help me to learn and to grow, both as a child of my family and as a child of God.  Amen.

One of the important parts of circumcision is that it places a child on the family tree.  Who are some important branches of your family tree for you?  Where would Jesus fit on your family tree?

Monday:  Luke 2:22-24

Dear God, I know that I was born at just the right time.  Help me to see the advantages of my place in my family, and to live according to your Word.  Amen. In the Bible, birth order is often very important.  In what order were you and your siblings (if any) born?  What makes your place in your family special?  Annoying?

Tuesday:  Luke 2:25-27

Dear God, send your Holy Spirit upon me.  Reveal your will to me, and guide my life.  Amen.

This reading mentions that the Holy Spirit rested on Simeon, and that Jesus’ arrival was revealed to him by the Holy Spirit.  Have you ever experienced the presence of the Holy Spirit?  In what ways do you see God’s guidance in your life?

Wednesday:  Luke 2:28-32

Dear Jesus, you came to be a light to the whole world.  Help me to see your light in dark times.  Empower me to reflect your light in those places that need it most.  Amen.

What difference does light make to a dark room?  What kind of a difference do you suppose the light of Christ is making in our dark world?  How are you being called to let your “little light” shine?

Thursday:  Luke 2:33-35

(Offer a prayer in your own words for your children, future children, or children who are dear to you)

What do you think it was like for Mary and Joseph to meet Simeon?  What would it be like to know that, because of your son, your future will sometimes be difficult?  What prayers would you have for your child?

Friday:  Luke 2:36-37

Dear God, I thank you for the wise saints in my life.  Open my ears, that I might absorb their wisdom.  Open my heart, that I might offer what I can to those of older years.  Amen.

What do you think it would have been like to meet Anna?  How do you think she might be different from other older women that you know?  How would she be the same?

Saturday:  Luke 2:38

Dear Jesus, make me patient when I have to wait for something that is dear to my heart.  Help me to wait with hope.  Cast out my impatience and despair.  Amen.

Anna had been waiting for many years for Jesus to arrive on the scene.  What are you waiting for?  When you wait, is it with patience or impatience, despair or hope?  What does God have to do with us while we wait?

Jesus’ Birth A to Z Week 6: Shepherds & Angels

BIBLE STORY OF THE WEEK: Luke 2:1-20 NRSV

 In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

COLORING PAGE

https://www.deviantart.com/art/Advent-Coloring-Page-Shepherds-269636778

PRAYERS & QUESTIONS:

Sunday:  Luke 2:1-4

Dear God, I thank you for the town that I call home.  Bless and keep all of the towns that are close to my heart, and help me to be a good member of the community.  Amen.

Tell a story about your hometown.  What are some advantages to this town?  Disadvantages?  Where do you think God is at work in your hometown?

Monday:  Luke 2:5-7

Dear Jesus, I am thankful that you were born on earth, and that you came to all creation.  Help me to remember your humble birth in the midst of all of the holiday joy.  Amen.

What do you think that it would be like to have a baby in a barn?  What do you think that it means that Jesus was born, not just to humans, but also to the animals?  What do you think that it means that Jesus, the King of Kings, was born in the opposite of a palace?

Tuesday:  Luke 2:8-9

Dear Lord, I thank you that you are not afraid to bring the message of your love all the way to the edges of society.  Help me to be brave in proclaiming your message, even in difficult places.  Amen.

Why do you think that the angel came to visit the shepherds to tell them about the birth of Jesus, before anyone else?  Who in our time do you think that the angel would have come to?

Wednesday:  Luke 2:10-12

Dear Jesus, I thank you for being the good news of great joy of Christmas.  Make my words and deeds reflect your joy, from the inside out.  Amen.

What is the best news that you have ever received?  Who gave you the news?  What was your reaction?  How do you think the shepherds felt?

Thursday:  Luke 2:13-15

(Spend a bit of time being quiet, and listening for God’s voice)

Dear God, when you call me, help me to drop everything and go.  Amen.

Shepherds did not usually make midnight trips to town, especially with their flocks still in the field.  Why do you suppose that they left their responsibilities that night?  What kind of good news would be enough for you to drop everything and go?

Friday:  Luke 2:16-18

Dear Jesus, I thank you for being born as a real human being.  Help me to not keep this miracle to myself, but to share it with those whom you have prepared.  Amen.

Not only were the shepherds the first to hear the good news, they were also the first to spread it!  Tell about a time when you talked to someone else about Jesus.  Who else could you tell today?

Saturday:  Luke 2:19-20

Dear God, thank you for wonderful experiences in my life.  Help me to treasure them, and to meet you there.  Amen.

The shepherds just can’t get enough of Jesus!  What is something wonderful that you want to experience again and again?  How can you invite God into that experience?

A to Z Nativity Set: Christmas 2018

Our parish has been working on learning the entire story of Jesus’ birth, from A to Z. Since many of the people who we meet in the story aren’t in a standard nativity set, I reworked a set from several years ago. This set can be used as Popsicle Stick puppets, or you can cut out tabs for the bottom of each character so that they can stand on their own, as you see in the picture. I cut popsicle sticks in half and affixed them to the tabs to give them some weight and help them to be more sturdy. Access your copy of the A to Z Nativity here

As you color the characters, listen to some easy-to-follow along Christmas songs from Reawaken Hymns:

When you are ready to tell the whole story, you can use the words below:

Zechariah:  Zechariah is an old man who has given up on having children.  Then, an angel appears and tells him that he will be the father to John the Baptist.  He finds this message hard to believe, so the angel gives him nine months to think about it.  He says, “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.” (Luke 1:20)

Mary: Mary is a young woman from the middle of nowhere.  When the angel tells her that she will be the mother of the Son of God, she responds, first with questions, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34), and then with faith, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”  (Luke 1:37) This statement of faith and the belief that “Nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37) changes the entire course of the rest of her life.

Elizabeth:  Elizabeth is Zechariah’s wife and Mary’s cousin.  It is to Elizabeth’s house that Mary flees once she agrees to be Jesus’ mother, and at that house receives the warmest of welcomes.  “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb,” (Luke 1:42) Elizabeth cries.  She celebrates the birth of a longed-for child in her baby, John, even as she welcomes the mother of the one who is to come.

Joseph :  Joseph is the adopted father of Jesus.  He is engaged to marry Mary, but they are not yet living together, when he finds out that she is pregnant.  We learn that God chose Jesus’ step-father well when we learn that he is both righteous and merciful, planning to dismiss her quietly.  When he dreams of an angel who explains “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit,” (Matthew 1:20) he believes the angel, takes Mary as his wife, and claims Jesus as his own.

Jesus: Jesus, of course, is the real star of the entire story. His name means “God saves,” which reminds everyone that, although he was born in a barn out in the country instead of in a royal palace, he is truly the King of Kings. God’s love is a constant surprise, and nowhere more so than in the birth of Jesus.

Shepherds:  Shepherds are the last people you would expect to receive the first news of the birth of Jesus.  They live out in the country, they are poor, and they are on the margins of society.  And yet, God chooses the least, the last, and the lowly, to reveal God’s plan of love and forgiveness for all.  “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors,” sings the whole multitude of the heavenly host.  (Luke 2:14).  The shepherds believe, go and see for themselves, and just can’t stop telling everyone they meet about the miracle of Christmas.

Simeon:  Simeon is a prophet who has waited his entire life to meet Jesus face to face.  When Mary and Joseph bring Jesus to the temple for the first time, he knows that his life’s work is complete.  “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word,” Simeon sings, “for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples.” (Luke 2:29-31). 

Anna: Anna has also waited her entire life to meet Jesus face to face.  When Mary and Joseph bring Jesus to the temple for the first time, she also knows that her life’s work is complete.  Anna shared the good news that the Messiah had come with anyone who would listen, thankful for a long life well lived, a precious hope at last fulfilled.

Magi:  The magi remind us that Jesus was not just a miracle for the people of Israel, but for the entire world.  They see the sign of the star and follow, past the edge of their known world, to meet Jesus face to face.  “They offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh,” (Matthew 2:11) because these people from a foreign land knew that he was king, God, and sacrifice.  They bring this message to the nations, even as they return home by another road.

Star: Did you know that people were not the only ones waiting for Jesus to be born? A star in the sky waited to appear to earth until the perfect moment, and the magi, who were probably also astrologers, saw the star and followed it all the way to Jerusalem. After meeting King Herod, they continue their search “and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was.” (Matthew 2:9) 

Animals: Although the animals aren’t technically in the story, having animals as a part of our nativity set reminds us that all of creation was waiting for and excited to welcome Jesus to earth. The animals even gave up their feeding trough so that Jesus would have a cradle in which to sleep! (Luke 2:7)

God bless you and your family  during this holy season!   –Family God Time

Children’s Devotion Time December 2018: Christmas

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: 

Large Group Gathering Prayer: (Do this prayer repeat-after-me style)

Dear Jesus, we thank you forthis time to learn more about the story of Christmas.  Help us to remember the reason for this holy season. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Large Group Bible Story:  Luke 2:1-20

Read about Jesus’ Birth in a children’s Bible, your own Bible, or you can find the story here: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+2&version=ERV

We used “The Holy Moly Christmas Story” for our resource.  Youcan purchase your own copy of the activity book here: https://www.beamingbooks.com/shop/product/21152/The-Holy-Moly-Christmas-Story

You can get a copy of the video here:  https://www.beamingbooks.com/shop/product/21141/The-Holy-Moly-Christmas-Story-DVD

Practice Christmas Songs:

For our Christmas program this year, our children and youth are choosing four songs from this resource:  
https://www.reawakenhymns.com/christmas-hymns

Nathan Drake is a church musician who makes classic hymns available on guitar with simplearrangements.  Check it out!

Large Group Closing Prayer: (Do this prayer repeat-after-me style)

Dear Jesus, we thank you for coming down to live with us in the miracle of Christmas. We are looking forward to your coming.  In your name we pray, Amen.

Activity:  Angel Luminaries

Supplies needed per learner

(1) large clear plastic cup (16 oz.)

(1) copy of angel luminary skirt printed on vellum 

(1/2) copy of angel wings and heads printed on cardstock

(1/2) yellow or gold pipe cleaner

(1-3) LED tea lights

scissors

clear tape

colored pencils

markers

Instructions

1.  Cut out the luminary skirt, one pair of wings, and one head.

2.  Color the wings and head with colored pencils.

3.  Color the back side of the luminary skirt with markers.

4.  Twist the pipe cleaner into a halo.

5.  Tape the luminary skirt to the upside-down cup.

6.  Tape the wings to the back and the head to the top lip of the front.  Add the halo.

7.  Place LED tealights inside the cup to light the luminary.  May the light of Christ be with you during this holy season!

© 2018 by Pastor Breen Marie Sipes, Tri-Saints Lutheran Parish, Byron and Hardy, Nebraska.  https://familygodtime.wordpress.com Please give credit where credit is due! 

Follow the Star Week 6: Christmas Season 2016

“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.  This week, we continue to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

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.  If you have made our star craft during Advent, you might gather to remember why it is at the top of the tree; Jesus is born!

Gathering Prayer: (repeat-after-me style)
Dear God, we thank you for time to spend together as a family as we celebrate that Jesus is here.  Help this time to be a holy time.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

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:

The season of Christmas is 12 days long.  Jesus’ birth is a really big deal, and so it takes more than just one or two days to celebrate it.  Just like we tell the stories of our children’s births to them around their birthday time, we learn and relearn the story of the birth of Jesus every year when we celebrate his birthday.  It is not yet Epiphany, and the wise men are still on their way to Jesus.  This week, we will continue to go star-crazy with our activity.

Rising Star Mobile
For this week’s craft, I borrowed an idea from another one of my blogs, Good God Ideas.  You can find the template here (but read our modified instructions first, below):  https://goodgodideas.files.wordpress.com/2016/11/stacked-star-ornament-2016.pdf

Instead of coloring it slowly over the course of the whole season, each of our family members colored one star and we hung up the Emmanuel part without coloring it.  We attached the stars together with fishing line and hung it up where it could move and swing.  It looks like a rising star, and reminded us that the wise men are still following the star to Jesus, and haven’t yet arrived to worship him.

Our finished project looked like this:

IMG_20161223_124740011.jpg

Song:  Beautiful Star of Bethlehem
This week we go bluegrass with yet another song about the star.  I hope you enjoy it!

Closing Prayer: (repeat-after-me style)
Dear Jesus, you are our bright morning star.  As we wait for the wise men to arrive, help us to follow where you lead, both now and always.  In your name we pray, Amen.

Follow the Star: Christmas 2016

“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.  This week, we celebrate the birth of Jesus.

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.  If you have made our star craft during Advent, move it to the top of your Christmas tree.  If you haven’t, find a star ornament to place near the top, or cut one out of paper and add a hanger.  Jesus is almost here!

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 finally come.  Help this time to be a holy time.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

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:

On Christmas, we celebrate this story once again!  Just like we tell the stories of our children’s births to them around their birthday time, we learn and relearn the story of the birth of Jesus every year when we celebrate his birthday.

Craft:  Jesus in the Manger
A big thanks to this site for giving me a great idea:  http://www.housingaforest.com/popsicle-stick-manger-craft/

Here is what mine looked like:
IMG_20161220_152053431 (2).jpg

Supplies needed:
2 Jumbo popsicle sticks (6.25” by .75”)
1 Glue Dot
A paperboard box with one brown side (cereal or cracker)
School Glue (I used the gel kind)
A Jesus and Manger printed on cardstock (you can find the file here)
Markers or other coloring tools
Scissors
A 10” piece of string, with knots tied on each end
A hot glue gun and glue

Here is a picture of the pieces, unassembled:
IMG_20161220_100450772_HDR (2).jpg

Instructions:

  1. Use the Glue Dot to attach the two popsicle stick together to make the base of the manger.
  2. Trace the triangle section of the base of the manger onto the brown side of the paper board box. Cut out the triangle, trimming the whole thing down by almost ¼”.
  3. Use the gel glue to glue the triangle to the back side of the popsicle sticks. Let dry.
  4. Color baby Jesus and the hay part of the manger on the cardstock that you printed. Cut them out.
  5. Cut your piece of string and put knots in each end.
  6. Use the gel glue to glue the hay to the front of the manger and Jesus at an angle to the back. Let dry.
  7. Use the hot glue gun to glue the string to the top of each popsicle stick on the back side.

The star has risen to the top!  It’s time to celebrate Jesus’ birth!  Locate your star ornament toward the top of the tree, and add your new ornament somewhere just below.  It might look like this:

IMG_20161220_152220632 (2).jpg

Song:  O Come O Come Emmanuel
In the Gospel of Matthew, the angel tells Joseph that Jesus is “Emmanuel,” which means “God is with us.”  Because Christmas is almost here, now is a great time to ask for him to come among us.

Closing Prayer: (repeat-after-me style)
Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest, and let all gifts to us be blessed.  By God’s will we move and live, help us see what gifts we give.  Amen.