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.



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?


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:

We used “The Holy Moly Christmas Story” for our resource.  Youcan purchase your own copy of the activity book here:

You can get a copy of the video here:

Practice Christmas Songs:

For our Christmas program this year, our children and youth are choosing four songs from this resource:

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


clear tape

colored pencils



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. Please give credit where credit is due! 

Jesus’ Birth A to Z Week 3: Mary


26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36 And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.




Sunday:  Luke 1:26-27

Dear God, thank you for my family and those who have gone before me.  Help my words and actions to reflect my identity as your child.  Amen.

Who are some people that you are related to?  Does who you are related to make a difference in how people interact with you?  What reputation are you handing down to future generations?

Monday:  Luke 1:28-29

Dear Jesus, open my eyes, that I may see angels when you have a message to send.  Help me to hear your word, and obey it.  Amen.

Have you ever had an encounter with an angel, or heard a story about someone who did?  What is it like to know that God uses angels to send important messages to earth?

Tuesday:  Luke 1:30-31

Dear God, I know that you have great plans for me.  Guide my life, that my path and yours are the same.  Amen.

What would it be like to find out that God wants you to be a parent to his Son?  What about if it happened when you were only fourteen?  What would you name a child, if you had a choice?

Wednesday:  Luke 1:32-33

Dear Jesus, I pray for the leaders of this world.  Help them to model their life after yours, that all may be loved and at peace.  Amen.

What does it mean to you to know that Jesus is the king of heaven?  How does Jesus’ rule differ from human rulers?  In what ways does Jesus make a difference in this world?

Thursday:  Luke 1:34-35

(bring your questions to God in prayer using your own words)

Have you ever wanted to ask God a question?  What does it mean to know that even Jesus’ mom had questions about God’s plan for her life?  In what ways can you take your questions to God in prayer?

Friday:  Luke 1:36-37

Dear God, I know that you make the impossible possible.  Help me to believe in you.  Give me the faith to know that I am safe in your hands.  Amen.

What are some things that you consider to be impossible?  In what ways do you think God could make the impossible possible?

Saturday:  Luke 1:38

Dear God, I know that you call me to do great things in your world.  Give me the courage of Mary, that I might step out in faith on behalf of those whom you love.  Amen.

Have you ever made a big decision?  What was it?  How did you make it?  In what ways can you say “Yes” to God today?

Jesus’ Birth A to Z Week 2: Zechariah


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.”




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


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.


Christ the King


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?

Advent 2017: #jesusbirthatoz

jesusbirthatoz cover001.jpg

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

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!

Jesus Dies and Rises: Luke 22-24

**We took a bit of a summer vacation ourselves, but for the next two weeks at Family God Time, we will be reviewing the Bible stories that we learned at Vacation Bible School this summer. Our curriculum was Group’s Maker Fun Factory.
You can find week one of this series here: God Creates Us
You can find week 2 here: Rahab and the Spies
You can find week 3 here: Gideon’s Army

Gathering Prayer: (Do this prayer repeat-after-me style)
Dear Jesus, we thank you for time to feed our faith as a family, and time to learn about Gideon’s army. Help our time together to be a holy time. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Bible Story: Luke 22:14-20, 22:39-53, 23:32-35, 23:44-56, 24:1-8
Read the story of Jesus dying and rising in a children’s Bible, your own Bible, or you can find the story here:

We reviewed the video that our parish made during VBS for our Bible story time. You can find it here:


Make the Story Come Alive
This is a really long story. In fact, in all of the gospels, the story of Jesus dying and rising takes up half of the total story. It is that important! However, it also might be hard for little ones to pay attention to from start to finish. We thought it would sink in better if we added movement and place to the story, and we invite you to tell it in the same way.

Materials needed:
A plate, cup and washcloth at station #1
A cross at station #3
A blanket for station #4

Station #1: Jesus eats with his friends
Ask, “Where do we go in our house to eat?” Let your children lead you there. Say, “On the day that he was arrested, Jesus ate a special meal with his friends. He took a loaf of bread and said. ‘This is my body, which I give for you. Do this to remember me.’” Pretend to give bread to each other from the plate. Then say, “At the end of the meal, he took a cup of wine and said, ‘This is my blood, which I pour out for you. Do this to remember me.’” Pretend to take sips from the cup. Then say, “At this meal, he also washed the feet of his disciples, and told them to love each other as much as he loved them first.” Pretend to wash each other’s feet with the washcloth. Then say, “After the meal, he and his friends went to a garden to pray. Where is our garden?” Follow the children to a garden, yard, or pot of flowers at your house.

Station #2: Jesus prays
Say, “Jesus was worried about what was going to happen to him. He prayed to God while his friends fell asleep. Let’s pray like he taught us to pray.” Pray the Lord’s Prayer together. If your family does not know the Lord’s Prayer, you could pray another prayer that you do know, or learn a repeat-after-me version with actions, below:

Our Father (ASL for “father,” open palm with thumb touching forehead)
Who art in heaven (two hands point up)
Hallowed be they name (trace a cross on your forehead)
Thy kingdom come (motion towards self with both arms)
Thy will be done on earth (point at ground)
As in heaven (point to heaven).
Give us this day our daily bread (one hand to mouth, as if eating)
And forgive us our trespasses (ASL for forgive, trace a circle on left palm and wipe it away)
As we forgive those who trespass against us (ASL forgive again)
And lead us not into temptation (cross out arms and shake head)
But deliver us from evil (pretend “devil” horns)
For thine is the kingdom (ASL “king,” a “k” from left shoulder to right hip)
And the power (muscleman arms)
And the glory (raise arms to sky)
Forever and ever (wind arms down)
Amen (praying hands)

When you are done praying in the garden, tell your family, “When Jesus was finished praying, soldiers came to arrest him and take him away. Can we make our feet sound like a whole bunch of stomping soldiers?” Practice doing this together. Then ask, “Where do we throw away garbage?” At our house, this is a dumpster, but you might have it in a trash bin in the garage, the kitchen, etc. Let your children lead you there, march like soldiers all the way.

Station #3: Jesus Dies
When you have arrived at the “garbage dump,” direct the attention of your family to the cross. Say, “Jesus was nailed to a cross at a garbage dump. Some people made fun of him. Some people asked him to forgive him. Jesus forgave everyone, and then he died. Can we sing, ‘Were you there’ together?” Sing a verse or two of “Were you There” together. If you are stumped, check out this video:

When you are finished singing, ask your family, “Is there anywhere in our house that reminds you of a cave?” It could be a small closet, or a root cellar, or even a cardboard box large enough to fit one of your children. We used one of our girl’s play tent. Let your children lead you there.

Station #4: Jesus is Buried
When you arrive at your cave, ask for a volunteer to be Jesus. Wrap them up in the blanket, lay them inside the “cave” and shut the door. Each of my kids wanted a turn, so we let each of them try it out. Say, “After Jesus died, his friends came to bury him. They wrapped him up in a cloth and laid him in a cave and shut the door. He stayed there for three days.”

Station #5: Jesus is Alive
Tell your Jesus to unwrap themselves and be ready to jump out of the cave. As a family, count to three together and open the cave. When Jesus jumps out, shout “Alleluia! He is risen!!!” You could also sing an Alleluia like you do in church. If you are stumped, try this version:

Thank you for experiencing this amazing story along with us!

Song: Jesus Loves Me
When we learned this story at VBS, we paired it with an old classic. Did you know that it has more than one verse? You can sing it here:

Activity: Cross Paintings
For our activity, I found this idea on Pinterest:

Here is a pic: IMG_20170803_084150836.jpg

Thanks for your commitment to faithfully feed your family’s faith! I hope that this time was holy time for you. Join us next week for out final VBS-themed Family God Time!

Closing Prayer: (Do this prayer repeat-after-me style)
Dear Jesus, we thank you that you died for us and rose again so that we can live. Help us to always remember how much you love us. In your name we pray, Amen.