Jesus’ Birth A to Z week 9: Flight to Egypt


Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”

16 When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:18 “A voice was heard in Ramah,
    wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
    she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”



Sunday:  Matthew 2:13a

Dear God, help me to listen to you, no matter how you choose to speak to me.  Amen.

Joseph is dreaming again!  Have you been paying attention to your dreams this season?  What do they have to tell you?

Monday:  Matthew 2:13b

Dear Jesus, my time is not always your time.  Help me to follow your lead, even when it interrupts my plans.  Amen.

Have you ever had to get up and go without advance notice?  What was that experience like?

Tuesday:  Matthew 2:13c

Dear God, sometimes unexpected things happen to me.  When I am in the middle of something unexpected, help me to you that you are present with me.  Amen.

What do you think it would have been like to unexpectedly have to move with a two-year-old for Mary and Joseph?  What would it be like for you?

Wednesday:  Matthew 2:14

Dear God, today I pray for those who are traveling because of the threat of war or violence.  Keep them safe on their journey, and help them to know that they are always at home in you.  Amen.

Have you ever traveled to a foreign country?  What was that experience like for you?  If you could travel somewhere, where would you go?

Thursday:  Matthew 2:15

Dear God, today I pray for those who live far from home.  Sustain them as they learn new things, and comfort them when they miss what is familiar.  Amen.

What would it have been like for Mary and Joseph to learn a new language, customs, and even cuisine?  What would it be like for you to do so?

Friday:  Matthew 2:16

Dear Jesus, today I pray for all children in the world, in our country, and in my community whose lives are threatened by violence.  Help me to see this danger and act to bring peace.  Amen.

King Herod’s actions against the children in Bethlehem are similar to Pharaoh’s in Moses’ time.  Why do you think he chose to do this?  Where are there places in this world where something similar is happening, even today?

Saturday:  Matthew 2:17-18

(Pray in your own words for people you know who are sad, mourning, or in pain today.) Have you ever been so sad that you didn’t know if you would ever stop crying?  What was that experience like?  What do you think it would have been like to lose a child to violence?  How can you make a difference in the lives of those who are mourning loss?

Jesus’ Birth A to Z week 8: The Wise Men


In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:

‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
    who is to shepherd my people Israel.’”Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” When they had heard the king, they set out; 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. 10 When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11 On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.


Daily Devos: the WISE MEN

Sunday:  Matthew 2:1-2

Dear God, guide my journey of faith.  Keep all who are traveling safe, and give me the courage to go where I have never been.  Amen.

What do you think it would have been like to travel all the way across the known world because of a sign in the stars?  Where is a place to which you would like to travel?  What journey is God calling you to take?

Monday:  Matthew 2:3-4

Dear Jesus, give me wisdom and knowledge.  Help me to find trustworthy sources, that I may be guided in your way.  Amen.

When Herod doesn’t know what to do next, he seeks knowledge from the wisest people he knows.  Where do you go to seek wisdom or knowledge?  How do you know which sources to trust?  For whom are you a source of wisdom or knowledge in your life?

Tuesday:  Matthew 2:5-6

(Pray for your town and the people who live there using your own words.)

Bethlehem is a little like the towns that we live in; small places in the middle of nowhere.  What would it be like to know that someone famous came from your town?  What would you like our towns to be famous for?

Wednesday:  Matthew 2:7-8

Dear Jesus, I know that you came to save the lost.  Find me when I am lost, and help me to have the diligence to seek that which needs to be found in my life.  Amen.

When is a time that you can remember searching diligently for something?  Did you find it?  How did you find what you were looking for?  What do you think God is calling you to search for?

Thursday:  Matthew 2:9-10

Dear God, I thank you for the end of long journeys, and the gift of joy.  Fill me with a sense of joy that never runs out, that it may overflow to those I meet.  Amen.

What would it have been like to get to the end of such a long journey?  When is a time when you have been overwhelmed with joy?  How does God bring joy into your life?

Friday:  Matthew 2:11

Dear Jesus, thank you for reminding me of just who you really are.  Help me to be generous, both in giving and receiving.  Amen.

The wise men bring gifts to show that Jesus is king, God, and sacrifice.  What do you think Mary and Joseph thought of these gifts?  What is the best gift you ever gave?  What is the best gift that you ever received?

Saturday:  Matthew 2:12

Dear Jesus, sometimes you ask me to travel on unfamiliar roads.  Give me courage to persevere, and an open mind and heart to follow where you lead.  Amen.

When is a time when you had to take a detour, or travel by an unfamiliar road?  What was it like for you and your travel companions?  What do you suppose it was like for the wise men?

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

Wise Men Give Gifts: Matthew 2

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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 the wise men who brought gifts to Jesus.  Help our time together to be holy time.  In your name we pray, Amen.

Bible Story:  Matthew 2
Read the story of the wise men in a children’s Bible, your own Bible, or you can find the story here:

For this story, my family and I used the Spark Story Bible.  You can purchase one here:

Discuss as a family:
Here is a discussion guide and coloring sheets that go along with this story:  Epiphany of Our Lord Discussion Guide

Our kids enjoyed using this resource to dive deeper into the story; we hope that you will, too!

Song:  Bright and Glorious is the Sky
This song is close to my heart because our family is of Scandinavian descent, and I grew up singing this song in Norwegian.  Only recently did I discover that this song is all about the wise men!  Our kids enjoyed helping to sing on the repeats at the end of each verse.

Activity:  Treasure Boxes
For this activity, I spent some time at the Dollar store.  I wanted to figure out a way to let our kids see, touch, and smell the gifts of the wise men in a kid-friendly way.  Here is what you need for this craft:

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Soap holder box
Star stickers (or stick-on jewels)
Print out of meanings: Gifts of the Wise Men
Three gold flat-sided marbles
1 block of “strange” smelling wax melts (I chose “Fireside,” which was on sale)
1 small container of lotion or lip balm

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Decorate the box on the outside with star stickers.  Cut out the meanings and cut them to fit the inside of the lid of the box.  Tape in place.  Remind your kids what each gift was about as you place the pieces in the box.


I have to admit that this has been one of my girls’ favorite crafts ever!  They love opening the box to smell the “frankincense” and putting the “myrrh” lotion on their hands.  They are keeping their boxes with our Please Touch” nativity set right in front of the baby Jesus.  It is amazing to see them using their imaginations to tell and retell the story!

If you would like another coloring activity for Epiphany which I compiled, you can find it here: Epiphany of Our Lord Sunday

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 for guiding the wise men to meet Jesus.  Lead us in your ways, all the days of our lives.  In your name we pray, Amen.

Resources used for this post:
Discussion Guide:  Thanks to for the star nativity, to for the star, to for generating the maze, and for the wise men.

Coloring Activity:  Thanks to for the star, and for the pictures of the gifts.

Follow the Star 2016: Pipe Cleaner Star

I told you that we were going to go star crazy this Advent, so here is another star to work on.  Our children and youth will be making them during Sunday School this month, and I can’t wait to see how they turn out!  Find the step-by-step instructions, below.

A big thanks to this site for the idea:

There were no instructions, just a picture, so this is how I put them together:

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bend end of pipecleaner 1/2 inch

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add 40 multi-colored pony beads


twist ends together, leaving 1 1/2 inches without beads

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make a star template with brad nails on a block of wood

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bend the pipe cleaner around the nails, with four beads per edge

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string 1 jingle bell and 2 pony beads onto a 12 inch piece of thin ribbon

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tie the ribbon to the top of the star and add a knot to the ends for a hanger.



Follow the Star Week 1: Advent 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

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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.  We will start the season with a four week craft which builds on itself as we watch the star rise to show the way to Jesus.  Below, find the complete supplies list for all four weeks.  The star instructions will be revealed week by week.

Supplies needed per star:

Week 1:
5 popsicle sticks
Folk Art Extreme Glitter paint in Canary Yellow
4 ultra-thin Glue Dots
2 3-D Glue Dots
Star Template
1-9 in length of gold jewelry wire (mine was copper painted gold)
Needle nose pliers
Regular pliers/wire cutter combo
20-24 assorted clear, gold, and yellow beads
Hot Glue Gun
Hot Glue Sticks

Week 2:
1/8” metallic gold ribbon

Week 3:
Craft tags
Brown string
“Follow” stamp or nice handwriting with a black felt-tip or gel pen
Black ink stamp pad (if using stamp)

Week 4:
Clear flat ½” marble
Black paint marker
Gold puffy paint
1 Permanent Glue Dot

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.

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 come.  Help this time to be a holy time.

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.

After you have sorted out the story, tell them:  There were lots of people waiting for Jesus to be born.  Angels.  Mary.  Joseph.  Shepherds.  Sheep!  Who was the group who came from the farthest away?  The wise men!  They had been watching the sky for a special star that would tell them that an important king had been born.  We know this because, in the Epiphany story, the wise men tell the people in Jerusalem, “For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.”

This year during Advent, we are going to wait for Jesus like the wise men, watch his star rise, and celebrate when he is born!

Craft:  Popsicle Stick Star
Instructions for Week 1:

  1. Make sure that all of your popsicle sticks are reasonably straight and free from bends.
  1. Paint all five popsicle sticks with a thin layer of Extreme Glitter craft paint in canary yellow.

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  1. Cut a 9” piece of gold jewelry wire.
  1. Bend one end over by about an inch. Holding the loose end to the long end with a needle-nose pliers, twist the loop with the other pliers to form a secure end.

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  1. Add 20-24 beads to the wire in any configuration you like, leaving 2 inches to bend and twist the end.

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  1. Print out the Star Template.
  1. Attach four thin Glue-Dots to the front top end of four popsicle sticks.

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  1. Attach 1 3-D Glue-Dot to the opposite front end of one of the sticks.

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  1. Attach the sticks to one another loosely in the order shown:

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  1. Lay the loosely attached star over your star template and move the sticks around until they match.  Add a second 3-D Glue Dot where indicated:

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  1. Firmly press all of the sticks together at the joints.
  1. Attach the wire to the back of the star with hot glue.

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When you have finished making your star(s), hang them at the bottom of your Christmas tree, or put it somewhere near the floor.  It is going to take four weeks for it to rise to the top!

Song:  The First Noel
Did you know that this song is actually mostly about the star?  Here is an easy-to-follow version of this song with lyrics.  It reminds us of the importance of the star to the story:

Playlist:  Here are a few playlists that you can listen to while you work!

Closing Prayer: (repeat-after-me style)
Dear Jesus, you are our bright morning star.  As we watch our little stars rise, help us to follow where you lead, both now and always.  In your name we pray, Amen.

Wise Men Visit Jesus: Matthew 2:1-11

Epiphany is the day when we celebrate the wise men coming to visit Jesus.  It is January 6th.  As we prepare to celebrate this day in the church, I invite your family to enter the story and continue to work on your family nativity sets.  Have fun feeding your family’s faith together!

Wise men

Gathering Prayer: (Do this prayer repeat-after-me style)
Dear Jesus, we thank you for time to feed our faith as a family, and for your coming at Christmas.  Help our time to be holy time.  In your name we pray, Amen.

Bible Story:  Matthew 2:1-11
Read this story in your Bible, My First Hands On Bible, or you can find it here:

Discuss as a family:  What are some details that you noticed in this story?  Who is your favorite character?  Your least favorite character?  Who would you want to be in this story?  Why does this story matter to us?

Activity:  Completing your Nativity Set
This week you will complete your nativity set by making the three wise men and the camel.  Look for the set of instructions that match your set, below.  If you want to listen to some Christmas music as you work (it is still Christmas, after all!), here are three great collections:
For Kids with Words:
All verses with lyrics:
Piano only, no Words:

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

TP Nativity
Coloring Template (TP Nativity 1TP Nativity 2)
Coloring utensils
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

Color the wise men and the camel.  Cut them out along the lines provided.  Secure the wise men to empty toilet paper rolls with the packing tape, as shown in this little video:

For the camel, you will have to make a flat base on your toilet paper roll so that it will rest upright.  See the pictures below to learn how to do this.


Secure the camel to the empty toilet paper roll, as shown above.

Since Epiphany is not until January 6, the wise men have not yet arrived at the stable.  Place them somewhere in the room that is East of your stable, like in the story.  Move them to the stable on Epiphany!

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

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

Color the wise men and the sheep.  Cut them out as near to the edges of the characters as you can.  Choose four 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.

Since Epiphany is not until January 6, the wise men have not yet arrived at the stable.  Place them somewhere in the room that is East of your stable, like in the story.  Move them to the stable on Epiphany!

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

Block Nativity
Coloring template (Block Nativity)
Coloring utensils
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)
Wood stain
Mod Podge
1 in. paint brush
A stable (You can find plans for one here)

Color the wise men and the camel.   Cut them out as near to the edges of the characters as you can.  Take three of your 7 inch blocks, which you have sanded and stained, and turn it so that the long edge is vertical (these will be the wise men).  Take the last of your 7 inch blocks, which you have sanded and stained, and turn it so that the long edge is horizontal (this will be the camel).  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.

Since Epiphany is not until January 6, the wise men have not yet arrived at the stable.  Place them somewhere in the room that is East of your stable, like in the story.  Move them to the stable on Epiphany!

Song:  We Three Kings
Have you ever wondered why the wise men brought the gifts that they did to Jesus?  This song explains it all:

Sing along on the refrain, or challenge yourself to learn the whole song.

Thanks for your commitment to faithfully feed your family’s faith.  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 spread the joy of Jesus’ coming at Christmas.  Amen.