Dear God, help us to see you in times when it might feel like you are not
there, especially when we are hurt, and when we do not have what we need. Amen
Bible Story of the Week: Luke 6:20-21
Then he looked up at his disciples and said: ‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. ‘Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. ‘Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.
Questions of the Week:
What are some things besides money that you could give to someone who is poor or hungry? What are some things you could do for people that do not have all that they need? When are times that you have felt poor or hungry? How did God bless you during those times? Who has been a blessing to you when you have been weeping? What did they do for you?
When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into the deep
water and let down your nets for a catch.’ Simon answered, ‘Master, we
have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will
let down the nets.’When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their
nets were beginning to break. So they signalled to their partners in the
other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that
they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’
knees, saying, ‘Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!’ For he and
all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken;and
so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon.
Then Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching
people.’ When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything
and followed him.
QUESTIONS OF THE WEEK:
If Jesus came to you at “work” where would you be?
What are you struggling with there that he would tell you to try again? What
are you likely to “catch.” What do you think Jesus means that his disciples
will catch people?
As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, 16John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
21Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, 22and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.D
Dear Jesus, I am thankful that you are with
me, even when I am filled with questions.
Help me to bring all of my questions to you. Amen.
Have you ever questioned something in your
heart? What was that experience
like? What do you remember about John
from earlier in our story? Why do you
think he reappears here?
Monday: Luke 3:16a
Dear God, I thank you for forgiving my sins, again and again and again. Help me to lead a life worthy of you. Amen.
John’s baptism was a simple washing away of current sins. It was something that people repeated again and again over the course of a lifetime. How does this differ from what you believe about baptism?
Tuesday: Luke 3:16b
Dear God, send your Holy Spirit into my life. Be as close to me as my every breath. Amen.
What do you think it means to be baptized with the Holy Spirit and with fire? What is the difference between being washed with water and purified with fire? In what ways do you think the Holy Spirit is active in you?
Wednesday: Luke 3:17
Dear Jesus, you take away the sin of the world. Have mercy on me. Amen.
John’s statement here mirrors farming practices in Bible times. Why do you think he compares our lives in God to this practice? What part of you needs to be shucked away?
Thursday: Luke 3:21a
Dear Jesus, stir up my faith in you, that I may use the gifts you give to help a hurting world. Amen.
Have you ever been to a worship service where multiple people were baptized or confirmed? What was that experience like? What would it have been like to be baptized on the same day as Jesus?
Friday: Luke 3:21b-22a
Dear God, all of your creation is connected, and we are only a part of the whole. Help us to widen our gaze, that we may see all the ways in which you show up in our lives. Amen.
When Jesus was baptized, something different happened. The heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended like a dove. Why do you think this happened? Tell about a time when you experienced the heavens opening (like a big storm), or something from the natural world reminded you of God.
Saturday: Luke 3:22b
Dear Jesus, I thank you for the gift of baptism. Help me to claim my identity as “beloved,” and do that which is well-pleasing in your sight. Amen.
When Jesus was baptized, God spoke out loud. What do you think it means that in baptism, you are a child of God who is beloved, with whom God is well pleased?
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.
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
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.
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?
In those days a decree
went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This
was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of
Syria. 3 All went to their own towns to be
registered. 4 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. 5 He
went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a
child. 6 While they were there, the time came for
her to deliver her child. 7 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.
8 In that region there were
shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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?
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
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.
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?