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. (Matthew 1:20 NRSV)
The Birth of Jesus the Messiah (Matthew 1:18-25 NRSV)
18 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.
Daily Questions& Prayers
Sunday: Matthew 1:18
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?
Dear Lord, help me to keep the promises that I make, and make me faithful in all my relationships. Amen.
Monday: Matthew 1:19
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?
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.
Tuesday: Matthew 1:20
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?
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.
Wednesday: Matthew 1:21
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?
(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.
Thursday: Matthew 1:22-23
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?
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.
Friday: Matthew 1:24
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?
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.
Saturday: Matthew 1:25
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?
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.
39 In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40 where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42 and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43 And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44 For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”
The Birth of John the Baptist (Luke 1:57-66 NRSV)
57 Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. 58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her.59 On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him Zechariah after his father. 60 But his mother said, “No; he is to be called John.” 61 They said to her, “None of your relatives has this name.” 62 Then they began motioning to his father to find out what name he wanted to give him. 63 He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And all of them were amazed. 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he began to speak, praising God. 65 Fear came over all their neighbors, and all these things were talked about throughout the entire hill country of Judea. 66 All who heard them pondered them and said, “What then will this child become?” For, indeed, the hand of the Lord was with him.
Daily Questions& Prayers
Sunday: Luke 1:39-40
Tell a story about a time when you went on a trip. What was the journey like? Who did you visit and why?
Dear God, please bless me when I travel. Bless all those who are on the road, or rail, or in the air today, that they may arrive at their destinations safely. Amen.
Monday: Luke 1:41-42
Have you ever gotten to feel a baby move in someone’s stomach? What did it feel like? What do you think it means that John recognized Mary, even in the womb?
Dear God, watch over all of those who are pregnant today. Keep them and their children safe, and make it a joyful time of wonder. Amen.
Tuesday: Luke 1:43-45
When is a time when you were received as a guest? What made it comfortable to be a guest? Uncomfortable? In what ways can you work on being hospitable?
Dear God, as I prepare to be a guest and a host this season, help me to remember to take the time to prepare for your coming. Take the “bah!” out of my “humbug.” Amen.
Wednesday: Luke 1:57-58
What do you think it would have been like to have been present at the birth of John? Do you know the story of your birth? What are your stories about children being born?
Dear Jesus, have care for all who are giving birth today. Help me to rejoice at the gifts of life that you constantly give through your great mercy. Amen.
Thursday: Luke 1:59-61
What is the significance of your name? Find out what it means, or why you were named what you were named. Does it make a difference that God chose John’s name?
Dear God, I thank you for my name. Help me to remember that names are powerful, and to use them kindly with those I meet. Amen.
Friday: Luke 1:62-64
What do you think it would be like to finally be able to speak after a long time of silence? Why do you think the first words out of Zechariah’s mouth were praise of God? How do you use your speech to praise God?
O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall declare your praise. Help me to always use my speech in a meaningful and holy way. Amen.
Saturday: Luke 1:65-66
What do you think it means that the hand of the Lord was with baby John? Do you think that the “hand of the Lord” has ever been with you? Could this phrase be tied to the presence of God’s blessing?
Dear God, I ask for your blessing on my life today. Empower me to be a blessing to those you place in my path today. Amen.
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36 And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
Daily Questions& Prayers
Sunday: Luke 1:26-27
Who are some people that you are related to? Does who you are related to make a difference in how people interact with you? What reputation are you handing down to future generations?
Dear God, thank you for my family and those who have gone before me. Help my words and actions to reflect my identity as your child. Amen.
Monday: Luke 1:28-29
Have you ever had an encounter with an angel, or heard a story about someone who did? What is it like to know that God uses angels to send important messages to earth?
Dear Jesus, open my eyes, that I may see angels when you have a message to send. Help me to hear your word, and obey it. Amen.
Tuesday: Luke 1:30-31
What would it be like to find out that God wants you to be a parent to his Son? What about if it happened when you were only fourteen? What would you name a child, if you had a choice?
Dear God, I know that you have great plans for me. Guide my life, that my path and yours are the same. Amen.
Wednesday: Luke 1:32-33
What does it mean to you to know that Jesus is the king of heaven? How does Jesus’ rule differ from human rulers? In what ways does Jesus make a difference in this world?
Dear Jesus, I pray for the leaders of this world. Help them to model their life after yours, that all may be loved and at peace. Amen.
Thursday: Luke 1:34-35
Have you ever wanted to ask God a question? What does it mean to know that even Jesus’ mom had questions about God’s plan for her life? In what ways can you take your questions to God in prayer?
(bring your questions to God in prayer using your own words)
Friday: Luke 1:36-37
What are some things that you consider to be impossible? In what ways do you think God could make the impossible possible?
Dear God, I know that you make the impossible possible. Help me to believe in you. Give me the faith to know that I am safe in your hands. Amen.
Saturday: Luke 1:38
Have you ever made a big decision? What was it? How did you make it? In what ways can you say “Yes” to God?
Dear God, I know that you call me to do great things in your world. Give me the courage of Mary, that I might step out in faith on behalf of those whom you love. Amen.
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
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
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:
The Birth of John the Baptist Foretold: Luke 1:5-25 NRSV
5 In the
days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged
to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name
was Elizabeth. 6 Both of them were righteous before
God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of
the Lord. 7 But they had no children, because
Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years.
8 Once when
he was serving as priest before God and his section was on duty, 9 he
was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the
sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense. 10 Now at
the time of the incense offering, the whole assembly of the people was praying
outside. 11 Then there appeared to him an angel of
the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When
Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him. 13 But
the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been
heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him
John. 14 You will have joy and gladness, and many
will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great
in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before
his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. 16 He
will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 With
the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of
parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous,
to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” 18 Zechariah
said to the angel, “How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and
my wife is getting on in years.” 19 The angel
replied, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to
speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20 But
now, 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.”
the people were waiting for Zechariah, and wondered at his delay in the
sanctuary. 22 When he did come out, he could not
speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He
kept motioning to them and remained unable to speak. 23 When
his time of service was ended, he went to his home.
24 After those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she remained in seclusion. She said, 25 “This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favorably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people.”
Daily Questions& Prayers
Sunday: Read Luke 1:5-7
Have you ever prayed for a
miracle? What are some impossible things
that God has done for you?
Lord God, I know that you can
do miraculous things. Make the
impossible possible, so that all may know your power. Amen.
What do you pray about? What do you hope for when you come to a
worship service at church? What do you
think God desires from our worship?
Dear Lord, you are worthy of worship
and praise. Help me to remember to honor
you, on special days and every day.
Tuesday: Read Luke 1:11-13
Describe a time when you have
been afraid. What or who helped you to
get through that scary time? Does it
make a difference to know that God is with you in times of fear?
Dear Jesus, I know that you
show up when I am afraid. Help me to
know that you are with me, no matter what. Amen.
Wednesday: Read Luke 1:14-16
Have you ever had a time in
your life when you were tempted to do something wrong, and then turned away
from doing it? Have you ever helped
someone else to get back on the right path?
God of all, I thank you that
you lead me and guide me. When I stray,
help me to turn around, to turn always toward you. Amen.
Thursday: Read Luke 1:17-19
Have you ever been told that
you were too young or too old for something?
What did that experience feel like?
What age of people do you think God likes to use?
Dear God, I thank you for the
age that I am. Help me to do the
impossible with the wonderful gifts you have given to me. Amen.
Friday: Read Luke 1:20-22
Have you ever had a time when
you were unable to speak? What about a
time when you took the time to listen?
What would it be like to not be able to speak for nine months?
(Instead of using words in your prayers today,
take the time to take five deep, slow breaths and listen for God to speak.)
Saturday: Read Luke 1:23-25
Have you ever had a time when
people changed their opinion about you for the better? What about when your opinion was changed
about someone else? What do think God’s
Dear Jesus, you know our hearts. Help me to look past the surface and give everyone the benefit of the doubt. Amen.