Jesus’ Birth from A to Z
It was three years ago at a Women in the Middle Bible study that the idea for Jesus’ Birth from A to Z was born. I had just introduced Anna to the women, and many of them had never remembered studying her. “Wouldn’t it be amazing,” they mused, “if we could spend Advent reading the whole story of Jesus birth from beginning to end in order?” “Why not?” I thought, “Where else will we learn this story, if not gathered together at church?” What has resulted has been several years of walking through this story together, and the opportunity to not only expand the story, but to find ourselves in it. As we prepare to embark upon this story once again, I invite you to take some time to reacquaint yourselves with all of the amazing people who worked together to bring our Savior to the world (their roles in the action are below). Who leads you? Who can you learn from? Who do you recognize, either in yourself or in your own life? May these grandmothers and grandfathers, sisters, aunts, and cousin in the faith lead and guide you as you prepare, once again, to receive Jesus in the joy and wonder of Christmas.
In Christ, Pastor Breen
Jesus’ Birth A to Z: An Expanded Nativity
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.
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.
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)
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.
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 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.
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 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.
Bonus: You can color your own expanded “please touch” nativity here: