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

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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:
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Mark+9%3A33-37+&version=ERV

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.

Pray Without Ceasing: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

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 remember to take the time to pray.  Help our time together to be a holy time.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Bible Verses:  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NRSV)
Rejoice always,  pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Questions to Ponder:

  1. What is tough about these verses for you? What do you have trouble understanding?
  2. What do you like about these verses? What is your favorite part, and why?
  3. What is a story you can remember as you think about these verses? It might be about a time when you were thankful, or wanted to do something all the time, for example.
  4. What is God up to in these verses? What is God calling you to do or to be because of these verses?

This Family God Time idea came about because my girls received Prayer Boxes from their godmother for Christmas.  They look like this:

IMG_20180123_100302567

She purchased them pre-made in a gift shop, but I am sure that you could easily make your own from an Altoids tin or a travel soap container and some stickers.

Since receiving these boxes, our girls have come up to us at all times of the day, on all days of the week, to ask us to write down a prayer that they would like to put in their box (two of our girls can’t yet read, and the oldest likes to make sure that her spelling is correct).  Because they are embodying this idea to “pray without ceasing,” I thought that it would be a good snow day activity to make some really special cards to put in their prayer boxes.

Song:  Pray About Everything
This is the song that we listened to as we made our cards.  I like this version because the actions are clear without being too much.  Enjoy!

Activity:  Prayer Cards
I am calling this a snow day activity because it involves more than one step with drying time in between.  You can choose to spread it out over the course of a day, or, as in the case of my family, do one step per day until they are complete.  If you want to go the quick route, you can simply color the background with markers, crayons, or colored pencils and then add inspirational stickers right away.  Here’s how we did it:

Materials Needed:
Water color paper, cut into small pieces that will fit, unfolded, into your prayer box.
Water color pencils
Thin paintbrushes and small dishes of water
Bible Journaling stamps (we used “Pray without ceasing” to fit our theme)
Black ink

Instructions:

  1. Use the water color pencils to color in the background of each piece of paper.  We used mostly stripes, with some on an angle.  IMG_20180123_100343891
  1. Turn the backgrounds into water color backgrounds using the small brushes and dishes of water.  Start with the lightest colors and move towards the darkest colors, washing out your brush in the water in between colors.  Allow to dry completely.  IMG_20180126_084222948.jpg
  1. Stamp the Bible Journaling saying over the top of the background using black, or another dark or complementary color of ink. Allow to dry completely.  IMG_20180124_104706040
  1. Place in your prayer boxes. The next time that you want to “pray without ceasing,” write your prayer on the back of these pretty cards!

Thanks for your commitment to faithfully feed your family’s faith!  I hope that this time was holy time for you.

Closing Prayer: (Do this prayer repeat-after-me style)
Dear Jesus, we thank you that you are always ready to listen to us, and that we are able to pray without ceasing.  Help us to rejoice in this gift of prayer always.  In your name we pray, Amen.