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




Supplies needed:
1 Bible per student
Old & New Testaments Bookmarks:  Bible Bookmarks 2018
Star stickers
Post-it tabs
Books of the Bible cards:
Old Testament https://sundayschoolsources.com/classmat/OT-flashcards.pdf
New Testament https://sundayschoolsources.com/classmat/NT-flashcards.pdf
Optional:  1 set Bible Trivia cards for each student + 1 for each teacher of the class(https://www.christianbook.com/bible-trivia-quiz-card-game/pd/920368)
Old Testament Song https://youtu.be/i7ZtWRSCH7E
New Testament Song https://youtu.be/2v6c6naFmJg

Navigating the Bible:
Today, we’re going to learn how to find things in your Bibles so that you can learn even more about the story of God and God’s love for all people…

    1. Locate the Table of Contents.  This will help you find different books in the Bible.  Put a bookmark here so that it is easy to find again.
    2. The Bible is divided into two testaments.  Do you remember what they are called?  (Old and New)  The Old is in the front of the Bible, and the New Testament is near the back.  In our Bibles, the page numbering starts over at the beginning of the New Testament.  Let’s find the page that says “New Testament” and put a bookmark there so that it is easy to find.
    3. The Bible is divided in four ways:  testaments, books, chapters, and verses.  The testaments are the biggest; they make up the two halves of the Bible.  The next largest division is the books.  Do you remember how many there were?  (66)  Each book is divided into chapters, just like a real book.  The chapters are then divided into verses, which are usually only one sentence or part of a sentence long!  This makes things in the Bible very easy to find, if you know how to look.
    4. Let’s practice finding different books in the Bible first.  Find your Table of Contents page (it’s marked with a bookmark J).  Get out your “Books of the Bible” playing cards and shuffle them.  Fan them out in your hands and ask someone to pick a card.  Read the card and show them how it is spelled (write it out on a chalkboard or whiteboard if not everyone can see the card at once).  Ask them to find that book in their Bibles.  Make sure to ask them if it’s in the Old or New Testament; this will make it easier for them to find it.  When they have all found it, put the card in a discard pile, face up on the table.  Repeat this exercise several times, until they are comfortable with it, using a different student to pick a new card each time.  Then, move on to the next activity.
    5. Now we will try to find books and chapters.  Show them what the beginning of a chapter looks like.  A chapter begins with a big number.  Find the book you are looking for first, then turn the pages until you find the number of the chapter we are looking for.  Show them that the book names and chapter numbers are at the top of each page, as well.  Have someone choose another “Books of the Bible” card and announce a chapter number along with the book name.  Try to make sure that the book actually has enough chapters (many Old Testament books are long, many of the New Testament letters are 3 chapters or less!)  Repeat this exercise several times, using a different student and card each time and placing the used cards in the discard pile.  When they are comfortable with this, pass out the pens, pencils, highlighters, stickers, and post-its and move on to the next activity.
    6. Now we will find books, chapters, and verses!  When someone tries to tell you where to find something in the Bible, they will tell you the book name first, then the chapter, then the verse or verses.  It will look like this:  write “John 1:1”  In what I just wrote, what’s the name of the book? (John)  What’s the chapter number?  (1)  What’s the verse number?  (1)  Let’s find it, knowing that the verses are the little numbers at the beginning of sentences, and the first sentence of a chapter that has no little number is verse 1…What does it say?  (have someone read it out loud)  That’s important verse, because it tells us about Jesus, who is the Word. Let’s mark it with a star…help the students mark this verse in their BiblesFind other verses and mark each one in a different way, using pens, pencils, and highlighters to underline, circle, star some of the verses, or the post-its to make the page easy to find again.  When they are comfortable with this, move on to the next activity.
    7. Optional:  Introduce them to the Bible Trivia card game.  Ask the question on the card, and, if they do not know the answer, have them look up the Bible citation in the small box on the card.  Explain that the best way to learn how to use the Bible is to practice.  Tell them that they will be playing this game at the beginning of each Sunday School Class, and can also practice with their families at home.  As time permits, do a few more cards.
    8. Optional:  Introduce them to the Books of the Bible Memory Songs  I have always found that it is easier to memorize something when put to music.  Try these songs, below!

    Prayer:  Dear God, we thank you for your Word, the Bible, and for giving it to us to study and learn.  We ask you to bless these Bibles and bless us as we use them, that in reading your story, we might grow closer to you.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.


Family God Time: JESUS WELCOMES CHILDREN: Mark 9:33-37

Gathering Prayer: (Do this prayer repeat-after-me style)
Dear God, we thank you that you welcome everyone as children, and that we have a place in your kingdom.  Help us to learn how to make everyone welcome.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Bible Story:  Mark 9:33-37
Read about Jesus Welcoming Children in a children’s Bible or online here:

Questions to Ponder:

  1. What is something that you are really great at? How could you use that gift or talent to serve God?
  2. What is something that you really struggle with? Who could be Jesus for you as you struggle?
  3. How do you know that you are welcome when you go someplace?
  4. What are some ways that you could be welcoming to others?

Song:  God Welcomes All
Here is a song that we are going to be learning in church this fall.  It reminds us that all are welcome, young and old alike!

God Welcomes All Emily Scott Houston 2011 from All Saints Company on Vimeo.

Activity:  Welcome Placemats        
We are entering into a time of year when lots of our family members come to visit.  Instead of making a welcome mat that would get stepped on, I thought it would be fun to make welcome placemats that we include on the table when we have visitors.  I found the instructions here:  https://laughingkidslearn.com/how-to-make-paper-weaving-placemats/ (I used leftover colored cardstock from other projects.  We did not glue them together.  We did use glue dots to stick the banner to the front.)

This is what ours look like:
Welcome Placemats

Thank you for spending some God Time with your family!  I hope this was a holy time for you.

Closing Prayer: (Do this prayer repeat-after-me style)
God be in my head, and in my understanding.
God be in my eyes, and in my looking.
God be in my mouth, and in my speaking.
God be in my heart, and in my thinking.
God be at my end, and at my departing.  Amen.

Family God Time: School Supply Blessing

It is back to school time in our parish, so I thought it would be a good idea to ask God’s blessing on our children as they begin the school year.  In church this week, they will participate in a backpack blessing.  You can find it on Daily Devos here:  https://familygodtime.wordpress.com/2018/08/08/daily-devos-back-to-school-blessing/

Back Pack Blessing

What follows is the take-home part of the devotion for the week.

First, gather your school supplies.  Have your children help you to remove packaging, add name inscriptions, and pack their back pack.  Wonder with them what each supply might be used for.  We used the following prayers as we went to bless each set of supplies before it went into their back packs:


O God, please bless my crayons, colored pencils, and markers.  As I add color to my work, help me to know that the gift of creativity comes from you.   God of mercy, hold me in love.

O God, please bless my pencils and pens.  As I write numbers and letters, words and sentences, help me to know that the gift of knowledge comes from you.  God of mercy, hold me in love.

O God, please bless my erasers.  When I make a mistake and have to start again, remind me of your unending offer of forgiveness to all who belong to you.  God of mercy, hold me in love.

O God, please bless my paper and notebooks.  Help me to remember those who do not have paper for their own, and to treat what I have as a precious gift from you.  God of mercy, hold me in love.

O God, please bless my binders and folders.  As these tools seek to hold the work I do, hold me in your love.  God of mercy, hold me in love.

O God, please bless my backpack.  As I carry it to and from school, and from classroom to classroom, help me to remember that there is nothing that I have that you can’t carry.  God of mercy, hold me in love.

(add your own specific blessings here)

O God, please bless my year as a student.  Bless my classmates, teachers, aides, and all who help me to learn and grow.  Give me a spirit of wisdom and understanding, of counsel and might, of knowledge and the fear of the Lord, a spirit of joy in your presence, both now and forever.  Amen.


If you want to have a little project to do with your children as well, you can get a really cute coloring graphic here:  https://store.illustratedchildrensministry.com/products/gods-got-your-back-backpack-tags?variant=8219534065762

I am planning to take the back and white back pack tag and blow it up to 8.5 x 11 size.  The graphic doesn’t pixallate at this size, and we will hang the completed masterpieces in our front window to welcome our bus drivers back to school, as well.

I know this time of year can be stressful for families; I hope that this simple devotion can help to make it a holy time as well!

© 2018 Rev. Breen Marie Sipes at Family God Time.  https://familygodtime.wordpress.com This resource is made available for free; please give credit where credit is due.

Family God Time: VBS Recap 2018

Do you remember way back to the beginning of the summer, when we had a wonderful, faith-filled week of Vacation Bible School together?  As the summer draws to a close, county fair time arrives, and our back-to-school preparations get into full swing, let’s take one last week to review all that we learned in Vacation Bible School.

You may choose to revisit your favorite story, or, if you missed one (or two or three) over the course of the summer, here’s another chance to once again dive deep into God’s story.  I hope that your time of Bible storytelling, songs, and activities will be a holy time for you and your family.

Family God Time:  God is with Moses in the River

Family God Time:  God’s People Enter the Promised Land

Family God Time:  God Heals Naaman in the Jordan River

Family God Time:  God Saves Paul from the Sea

Family God Time:  Jesus is Baptized

Are you looking for Daily Devos coloring, prayer, and discussion on these stories that you can do on your own?  Look here:  https://familygodtime.wordpress.com/2018/08/02/daily-devos-vacation-bible-school-recap-2018/



Family God Time: JESUS IS BAPTIZED Matthew 3:13-17

This is our last week of remembering what we learned in Bible School at the beginning of the summer. Have fun learning more about each story from your children; they are sometimes our greatest teachers!

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

Dear God, we thank you for the gift of baptism, and for the promises of forgiveness, love, and hope. Help us to walk wet as we follow in your footsteps. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Bible Story: Matthew 3:13-17

Read about the Baptism of Jesus in a children’s Bible or online here:

Here are two videos to show you the Baptism of Jesus:

Questions to Ponder:
1. Do you know the story of the day that you were baptized? If so, tell it.
2. If not, talk to someone who would know, and learn it for yourself.
3. What do you think it would have been like to hear God’s voice?
4. What would it have been like to see the heavens ripped apart?
5. What would it have been like to see the Spirit like a dove from heaven?

Song: Jesus Was Baptized

It is hard to believe, but I could not find even one song about the Baptism of Jesus on Youtube! Instead, I made up this song which goes to the tune of “Frere Jacques.” Feel free to make up actions to go with it. Enjoy!

Jesus Was Baptized_a song for kids.png

Activity: Baptism of Jesus Spinners


I found this craft from Flame Creative Children’s Ministry, and thought it would be great to give it a try with my own family. You can find the activity here: http://flamecreativekids.blogspot.com/2016/01/printable-baptism-of-jesus-spinner.html

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

God be in my head, and in my understanding.
God be in my eyes, and in my looking.
God be in my mouth, and in my speaking.
God be in my heart, and in my thinking.
God be at my end, and at my departing. Amen.

Family God Time: GOD SAVES PAUL FROM THE SEA: Acts 27:21-26, 39-44

For the next two weeks, we will be remembering what we learned in Bible School at the beginning of the summer. Have fun learning more about each story from your children; they are sometimes our greatest teachers!

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

Dear God, we thank you for keeping Paul and his friends safe in the storm. Please be with us, even through scary times. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Bible Story: Acts 27:21-26, 39-44

Read about Paul’s Shipwreck in a children’s Bible or online here:

Here is a video to show you Paul’s story:

Here’s a video about the shipwreck:

Questions to Ponder:

  1. Tell about a time when you were on a boat. What was it like?
  2. Tell your best storm story. How did God keep you safe in the storm?
  3. What are some ways that you can encourage others when they are going through scary times in their lives?

Song: Paul Was Sailing on the Sea

It is hard to believe, but I could not find even one song about Paul’s Shipwreck on Youtube! Instead, I found this song that goes to “Michael Row the Boat Ashore.” I taught the kids the melody of the second line, and we sang it as a call and response with actions.  It is from http://www.dltk-bible.com/paulwassailing.html

Paul Was Sailing on the Sea Song


Activity: Sponge Sailboats


Since the main event of this story is a shipwreck, I thought I would be fun to make some simple boats of our own (and even wreck them). You can find easy instructions here: https://www.easypeasyandfun.com/sponge-sailboat-craft-for-kids/

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

God be in my head, and in my understanding.
God be in my eyes, and in my looking.
God be in my mouth, and in my speaking.
God be in my heart, and in my thinking.
God be at my end, and at my departing. Amen.