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

Jesus’ Birth A to Z Week 5: Joseph & the Angel

BIBLE STORY OF THE WEEK: Matthew 1:18-25 NRSV

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. 20 But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

23 “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
    and they shall name him Emmanuel,”

which means, “God is with us.” 24 When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, 25 but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.

COLORING PAGE

http://www.supercoloring.com/pages/the-dream-of-saint-joseph

PRAYERS & QUESTIONS:

Sunday:  Matthew 1:18

Dear Lord, help me to keep the promises that I make, and make me faithful in all my relationships.  Amen.

What are the promises that people make to one another when they get engaged to be married?  What would it be like to think that your significant other was lying to you about something very important?

Monday:  Matthew 1:19

Dear God, help me to know the right thing to do in sticky situations.  Help me to show mercy to others, as you show mercy to me.  Amen.

What do you think that you would have done in Joseph’s situation?  What are some ways that you can do what is right, but also what is merciful?

Tuesday:  Matthew 1:20

Dear Jesus, you are with me when I am awake and when I am asleep.  Grant me peaceful rest, and an open mind to hear your voice.  Amen.

What do you dream about?  Do you listen to your dreams?  Has God ever sent you a message through a dream?  What was that experience like?

Wednesday:  Matthew 1:21

(Take a few moments to think about the ways in which you have sinned and want forgiveness)

Dear Jesus, I ask you to forgive me completely, and to save me from my sins.  Amen.

The name Jesus means “God saves.”  Why do you think that this is an important name for the Son of God to have?  How does Jesus save us from our sins?

Thursday:  Matthew 1:22-23

Dear God, I thank you that you are present in my life, in the good times, in the bad times, and everywhere in between.  Help me to know that this is really true in my life.  Amen.

What does it mean that “God is with us” in the person of Jesus?  At what times and in what places do you know that God is present in your life?

Friday:  Matthew 1:24

Dear God, I thank you for Joseph and Mary, and the commitment that they made to one another in uncertain times.  Help me to reach out in love towards others.  Amen.

Tell your favorite story of a wedding. What do you think that it means that Joseph and Mary are making a lifetime commitment at this point in the story?

Saturday:  Matthew 1:25

Dear Jesus, I thank you for claiming me as your own in the waters of baptism.  Help me to walk as a child of your light, now and always.  Amen.

In Bible times, when a father named a child, he was claiming it as his own.  What do you think of Joseph for claiming Jesus as his son on earth?  Who do you claim as your own?  Who claims you?

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.

Advent Recap: Last Minute Nativity

Have you been meaning to feed your family’s faith this Advent, but just haven’t been able to find the time amid all the activities and obligations?  Here is your chance to catch up on the story and make a small nativity set together as a family.  Take a deep breath, a few moments of holy time, and get ready to focus on our Savior.

LMN all.jpg

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 prepare for your coming at Christmas.  Help our time to be holy time.  In your name we pray, Amen.

Bible Story:  Recap
For the past several weeks on Family God Time, we have been reviewing the different parts of the Christmas story.  You can watch a great version of this story together here:

Discuss as a family:  Which character was your favorite in this story?  Which one are you the most like?  Why?  Which one would you least like to be?  Why?  What did you learn about Christmas from this story?

Activity:  Last Minute Nativity Set
A nativity set is a group of figures that tell us the story of Jesus’ birth.  Below, find three options for a small nativity set that you can complete in one sitting.  Choose the one that is most do-able for your family.  If you want to listen to some sacred Christmas music as you work, here are three great collections:
For Kids with Words:  https://youtu.be/PC67SdKYQ28
All verses with lyrics:  https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLjrNT3nia3QvVViHQSpRO3XA7m3NfpQDO
Piano only, no Words:  https://youtu.be/sa7i-YYhc5Q

Block Nativity:
LMN BLock

You will need:
1 coloring and instruction sheet, printed on regular printer paper
1 wooden block shaped like a house (find a few at church, thanks to my wonderful husband!) (You do not have to stain it like the one in the photo; an unstained one will still turn out beautiful!)
coloring utensils
1 pair of scissors
Mod Podge or other crafting glue
A 1 inch brush

Download the coloring and instruction sheet here:  Last Minute Block Nativity

Popsicle Stick Puppet Nativity:

LMN Puppets.jpg

You will need:
1 coloring and instruction sheet, printed on cardstock
coloring utensils
1 pair of scissors
popsicle sticks (find some at church)
glue or tape

Download the coloring and instruction sheet here:  Last Minute Popsicle Stick Nativity

Magnet Nativity:

LMN Magnet

You will need:
1 coloring and instruction sheet, printed on cardstock
coloring utensils
1 pair of scissors
3 business card magnets, or other sticky back magnets (there are some available at church)

Download the coloring and instruction sheet here:  Last Minute Magnet Nativity

Song:  What Child is This?
This Christmas song features almost all the parts of our story today.

The lyrics are printed on the screen as you watch.  Sing along!

Thanks for taking and making the time to feed your family’s faith this Advent.  I hope that this time was holy time for you.

Closing Prayer: (Can be a repeat after me prayer if you have non-readers in your family)
Thank you, God, for this holy time together to feed our faith as a family.  Bless us as we prepare for Jesus’ coming at Christmas.  Amen.

Joseph and the Angel: Matthew 1:18-24

This is the third week of Advent, the season of the church where we prepare for and anticipate Jesus’ coming among us at Christmas.  This week, we continue our Advent study and Nativity set project.  Instructions for all three types of set are in this post.  Have a wonderful time feeding your family’s faith this week!

Advent 3 nativity

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 prepare for your coming at Christmas.  Help our time to be holy time.  In your name we pray, Amen.

Bible Story:  Matthew 1:18-24
Read this story in your Bible, or you can find it here:
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+1%3A18-24&version=ERV

Discuss as a family:  How does this story describe Joseph?  What did he plan to do?  Why?  How did the angel change his mind?  Have you ever made up your mind to do something, and then “seen the light”?  Tell the story.

Activity:  Making your Nativity Set Week 3
During Family God Time, we will be looking forward to the coming of Jesus by making a nativity set together.  A nativity set is a group of figures that tell us the story of Jesus’ birth.  Last week, you began working on a few characters in your set; this week you will continue with a few more pieces.  Look for the set of instructions that match your set, below.  If you want to listen to some sacred Christmas music as you work, here are three great collections:

For Kids with Words:  https://youtu.be/PC67SdKYQ28
All verses with lyrics:  https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLjrNT3nia3QvVViHQSpRO3XA7m3NfpQDO
Piano only, no Words:  https://youtu.be/sa7i-YYhc5Q

TP Nativity: (Easy-level of difficulty-anyone can do it!)

TP Nativity
Coloring Template (TP Nativity 1TP Nativity 2)
Coloring utensils
Scissors
9 empty toilet paper rolls
1 empty paper towel roll
-or- 2 empty wrapping paper rolls
(you could get 2 rolls at the dollar store, unwrap them and store the paper wrapped around another roll)
Crystal Clear Packing Tape
Empty Cardboard Box

During this third week of Advent, you will only be making three of your nativity characters, the ones that go with this week’s story.  Color Joseph, the star, and the donkey.  Cut them out along the lines provided.  Secure them to three empty toilet paper rolls with the packing tape, as shown in this little video:

The donkey is a bit more complicated to put together.  See how to cut the paper roll to fit the donkey here:

WP_20151104_13_20_38_Pro   WP_20151104_13_20_56_Pro WP_20151104_13_22_31_Pro

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Did you notice that a donkey is not in the Bible story?  It is not in any of the Bible stories, but we know that there were more than likely animals in the stable where the holy family found room to rest, so it is a part of our story, also.  Add Joseph and the donkey to the nativity scene and put the star on top of the box.  The star showed the wise men how to get to Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, but it will be awhile yet before they arrive.  We had better put up the sign that shows them the way!

Stone Nativity: (Medium-level of difficulty due to coloring)

Stone Nativity
Coloring Template (Stone Nativity)
Coloring Utensils (fine point)
Scissors
13 river stones
Mod Podge Glue
½” width paint brush
Shredded paper
A basket or a bowl (preferably borrowed, like Jesus’ cradle!)

During this third week of Advent, you will only be making three of your nativity characters, the ones that go with this week’s story.  Color Joseph, the star, and the donkey.  Cut them out as near to the edges of the characters as you can.  Choose three stones that will fit the characters.  Apply a thin layer of Mod Podge to the stone, place the character on the stone, and apply another thin layer of Mod Podge over the top.  Be careful as you do this; my markers had a tendency to run the colors together if I was too generous with the glue.  Allow to dry.  Add another second thin layer of glue.  Allow to dry.

Did you notice that a donkey is not in the Bible story?  It is not in any of the Bible stories, but we know that there were more than likely animals in the stable where the holy family found room to rest, so it is a part of our story, also.  Add Joseph and the donkey to the nativity scene and put the star toward the top of the basket.  The star showed the wise men how to get to Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, but it will be awhile yet before they arrive.  We had better put up the sign that shows them the way!

Block Nativity: (Hard-level of difficulty/time)

Block Nativity
Coloring template (Block Nativity)
Coloring utensils
Scissors
1- 8 ft. 2 x 4 cut into 12- 7 in. sections
(glue 2 together for donkey)
(cut one into 3- 2.25 in. sections for 2 sheep and 1 star)
Sandpaper
Wood stain
Mod Podge
1 in. paint brush
A stable –You can find plans for one here:  Block Nativity Stable 2015

During this third week of Advent, you will only be making three of your nativity characters, the ones that go with this week’s story.  Color Joseph, the star, and the donkey.   Cut them out as near to the edges of the characters as you can.  Take one of your 7 inch blocks, which you have sanded and stained, and turn it so that the long edge is vertical (this will be Joseph).  Take one of your small blocks and place it so that the long edge is vertical (this will be your star).  Take the two blocks that you glued together and place it so that the long edge is HORIZONTAL (this will be your donkey).  Apply a thin layer of Mod Podge to each of the blocks, place the correct character on the block, and apply another thin layer of Mod Podge over the top.  Be careful as you do this; my markers had a tendency to run the colors together if I was too generous with the glue.  Allow to dry.  Add another second thin layer of glue.  Allow to dry.

Did you notice that a donkey is not in the Bible story?  It is not in any of the Bible stories, but we know that there were more than likely animals in the stable where the holy family found room to rest, so it is a part of our story, also.  Add Joseph and the donkey to the nativity scene and put the star on top.  The star showed the wise men how to get to Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, but it will be awhile yet before they arrive.  We had better put up the sign that shows them the way!

Song:  O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
Did you notice that our story for today called Jesus “Immanuel”?  That’s where the title of this song comes from.  Once again during Family God Time, we will experience this, one of the oldest songs that we have in church.  It reminds us of all the reasons that Jesus needs to come to our world.  You can listen to a Contemporary Christian version from Jeremy Camp here:

The lyrics are printed on the screen as you watch.  Sing along!

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

Closing Prayer: (Can be a repeat after me prayer if you have non-readers in your family)
Thank you, God, for this holy time together to feed our faith as a family.  Bless us as we prepare for Jesus’ coming at Christmas.  Amen.