Luke 2:1-20 (New Revised Standard Version)
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 highest heaven,
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.
Last year, I learned that many of our people know the story of Christmas Eve, but they are a little fuzzier on all of the stories that surround this, one of the most important stories of our faith. We agreed to take a few years to fully immerse ourselves in the story, from the beginning to the end, and #jesusbirthatoz was born. In this book, you will find focus images, Bible stories, prayers, and questions for the ten weeks spanning Christ the King Sunday, Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, and Baptism of our Lord. It is our hope that, by reading this old, old story from beginning to end in order, we might be both renewed and deepened in our faith during this holy season. Resources will be available in various ways. You can pick up a daily flipbook, or a weekly devotion book, or a week by week leaflet. All of our resources will also be available online, so that you can access them any time and in any place. What follows are brief character sketches of who will we meet along the way. Christ is coming soon; Come, let us adore him!
Pastor Breen Marie Sipes
Christ the King: Jesus is an unexpected sort of king, totally opposite of the kind of leaders that we experience here on earth. This is reflected in Mary’s Song: “He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly, he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.” (Luke 1:51-52) https://familygodtime.wordpress.com/2018/11/23/jesus-birth-a-to-z-week-1-christ-the-king/
Zechariah (Advent 1): 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) https://familygodtime.wordpress.com/2018/11/29/jesus-birth-a-to-z-week-2-zechariah/
Mary (Advent 2): 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 (Advent 3): 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 (Advent 4): 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.
Shepherds (Christmas): 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 and Anna (Christmas 2): Simeon and Anna are prophets who have waited their entire lives to meet Jesus face to face. When Mary and Joseph bring Jesus to the temple for the first time, they know that their 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 shared this good news with anyone who would listen, thankful for a long life well lived, a precious hope at last fulfilled.
Wise Men (Epiphany): The wise men 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.
King Herod (Epiphany 2): King Herod is the one who is directly affected by the rumors of a new king who is not from his family. Willing to protect his throne at any cost, “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.” (Matthew 2:16) Just before the massacre, Joseph dreams of the danger, and he, Mary, and Jesus become refugees in Egypt until it is safe to return.
Jesus’ Baptism (Baptism of Our Lord): The Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany cycle ends with the beginning of Jesus’ adult ministry and his baptism. We meet John and Jesus again, now fully grown and ready to fulfill what God had planned for them, even before they were in the womb. During Jesus’ baptism, the Holy Spirit arrives, and God declares, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:22)