Christmas Lessons & Carols

The pianist Kaleb Brasee is a stellar resource for Christmas songs to sing along to.  If you would like to see the lyrics, choose “open transcript” from the menu that comes up after the three dots at the bottom of the video.  Many blessings on your Christmas celebrations!

GATHERING PRAYER

Our Lord Emmanuel, 
we thank you for coming down to us on Christmas.
Shine your light into our darkness,
and open our hearts to your way of love and peace.  Amen.

GATHERING SONG

FIRST READING

The Birth of Jesus Foretold (Luke 1:26-38 NRSV)
26 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.

CAROL

SECOND READING

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.

CAROL

THIRD READING

The Birth of Jesus (Luke 2:1-7 NRSV)
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. 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. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 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.

CAROL

FOURTH READING

The Shepherds and the Angels (Luke 2:8-20 NRSV)
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 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.

CAROL

FIFTH READING

The Visit of the Wise Men (Matthew 2:1-12)
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.

CAROL

SIXTH READING

The Word Became Flesh (John 1:1-5,9-14 NRSV)
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

CAROL

PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE

On this holy night, let us pray for the whole people of God in Christ Jesus, and for all people throughout the world, and for all those in need of prayer.

O God of Courage, we pray for those who, like Mary, need some courage today.
Strengthen them in their courage, and give us a measure of your own.  Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

O God of Encouragement, we pray for those who, like Elizabeth, encourage others.
Open their hearts and minds to those who need your help and care, and encourage us in the path where you lead. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

O God of Mercy, we pray for those who, like Joseph, are merciful.
Help them to know how to do what is right, and help us to extend that mercy towards those who need it.  Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

O Light of Light, we pray for the church.
For unity in division, for strength in adversity, for hope in despair.  Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

O Root of Jesse, we pray for the earth.
For rest for the land, for clean water, air, and soil, for good stewardship of all you have given us.  Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

O Prince of Peace, we pray for the world.
For peace among nations, for peace among peoples, for peace in our homes and communities.  Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

O Key of David, we pray for those who cannot be here with us today.  For compassion for our neighbors in need.  Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

O Source of Wisdom, we pray for those in need of prayer.
For health, hope, healing, and wholeness.  Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

O Mighty Lord, stir up your power and come among us.
For those things on our hearts and minds which are known only to you.  Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

God with us, we thank you for this time to worship you.
As we go from here, help us to be your light
in all the dark places of our homes, our communities, and our world. 
In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Lord, remember us in your kingdom, and teach us to pray…

THE LORD’S PRAYER

CAROL

OFFERING:  MISSION OF THE MONTH

Blue Valley Home Foundation
Becoming a partner with Blue Valley Lutheran Homes allows us to continue to provide the highest quality nursing care to our residents, who are elderly, disabled or suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. Your gift greatly impacts the lives of the residents we serve!  Blue Valley is a serving arm of the Nebraska Synod ELCA.  Learn more about Blue Valley Home Foundation here:  http://bvlh.org/foundation-for-blue-valley-lutheran-homes-nebraska-nursing-care-homes/

OFFERING PRAYER

As we celebrate the coming of your Son, O God, we thank you for the blessing of your generosity and forgiveness. We give you thanks for our many blessings, signs of your gracious love. Strengthen us to be generous and forgiving, that we may share our gifts with the hungry and all who look for your justice and mercy. Grant this through Christ our Lord, Amen.

adapted from http://www.lifelongfaith.com/uploads/5/1/6/4/5164069/table_prayers_for_advent_1.pdf

SENDING SONG

BLESSING

Go in peace.  Your Light has come.
Thanks be to God.

POSTLUDE

Christmas 1: Simeon & Anna

Here are the complete resources forthe first Sunday in Christmas of our Jesus’ Birth from A to Z series.

Get the entire Advent-Epiphany Daily Devotion Book here: https://pbsipes.files.wordpress.com/2019/11/jesus-birth-a-to-z-devotion-books-2019-pdf.pdf

Weekly Reflective Coloring Page

Weekly Bible Story

Jesus Is Presented in the Temple (Luke 2:21-38 NRSV)

21 After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

22 When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), 24 and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,

29 “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word;
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation,31which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”

33 And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. 34 Then Simeon[i] blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed 35 so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

36 There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.

Daily Questions & Prayers

Sunday:  Luke 2:21

One of the important parts of circumcision is that it places a child on the family tree.  Who are some important branches of your family tree for you?  Where would Jesus fit on your family tree?

Dear Jesus, I thank you for placing me into a family.  Help me to learn and to grow, both as a child of my family and as a child of God.  Amen.

Monday:  Luke 2:22-24

In the Bible, birth order is often very important.  In what order were you and your siblings (if any) born?  What makes your place in your family special?  Annoying?

Dear God, I know that I was born at just the right time.  Help me to see the advantages of my place in my family, and to live according to your Word.  Amen.

Tuesday:  Luke 2:25-27

This reading mentions that the Holy Spirit rested on Simeon, and that Jesus’ arrival was revealed to him by the Holy Spirit.  Have you ever experienced the presence of the Holy Spirit?  In what ways do you see God in your life?

Dear God, send your Holy Spirit upon me.  Reveal your will to me, and guide my life.  Amen.

Wednesday:  Luke 2:28-32

What difference does light make to a dark room?  What kind of a difference do you suppose the light of Christ is making in our dark world?  How are you being called to let your “little light” shine?

Dear Jesus, you came to be a light to the whole world.  Help me to see your light in dark times.  Empower me to reflect your light in those places that need it most.  Amen.

Thursday:  Luke 2:33-35

What do you think it was like for Mary and Joseph to meet Simeon?  What would it be like to know that, because of your son, your future will sometimes be difficult?  What prayers would you have for your child?

(Offer a prayer in your own words for your children, future children, or children who are dear to you)

Friday:  Luke 2:36-37

What do you think it would have been like to meet Anna?  How do you think she might be different from other older women that you know?  How would she be the same?

Dear God, I thank you for the wise saints in my life.  Open my ears, that I might absorb their wisdom.  Open my heart, that I might offer what I can to those of older years.  Amen.

Saturday:  Luke 2:38

Anna had been waiting for many years for Jesus to arrive on the scene.  What are you waiting for?  When you wait, is it with patience or impatience, despair or hope?  What does God have to do with us while we wait?

Dear Jesus, make me patient when I have to wait for something that is dear to my heart.  Help me to wait with hope.  Cast out my impatience and despair.  Amen.

Christmas Eve & Day: Shepherds & Angels

Here are the complete resources for Christmas Eve/Day of our Jesus’ Birth from A to Z series.

Get the entire Advent-Epiphany Daily Devotion Book here: https://pbsipes.files.wordpress.com/2019/11/jesus-birth-a-to-z-devotion-books-2019-pdf.pdf

Weekly Reflective Coloring Page

Weekly Bible Story

The Birth of Jesus:  Luke 2:1-7 NRSV

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. 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. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 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.

The Shepherds and the Angels:  Luke 2:8-20 NRSV

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 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.

Daily Questions & Prayers

Sunday:  Luke 2:1-4

What are some advantages of your hometown?  Disadvantages?  Where do you think God is at work in your hometown?

Dear God, I thank you for the town that I call home.  Bless and keep all of the towns that are close to my heart, and help me to be a good member of the community.  Amen.

Monday:  Luke 2:5-7

What would it be like to have a baby in a barn?  What do you think that it means that Jesus was born, not just to humans, but also to the animals?  What do you think that it means that Jesus, the King of Kings, was born in the opposite of a palace?

Dear Jesus, I am thankful that you were born on earth, and that you came to all creation.  Help me to remember your humble birth in the midst of all of the holiday joy.  Amen.

Tuesday:  Luke 2:8-9

Why do you think that the angels came to visit the shepherds to tell them about the birth of Jesus, before anyone else?  Who in our time do you think that the angel would have come to?

Dear Lord, I thank you that you are not afraid to bring the message of your love all the way to the edges of society.  Help me to be brave in proclaiming your message.  Amen.

Wednesday:  Luke 2:10-12

What is the best news that you have ever received?  Who gave you the news?  What was your reaction?  How do you think the shepherds felt?

Dear Jesus, I thank you for being the good news of great joy of Christmas.  Make my words and deeds reflect your joy, from the inside out.  Amen.

Thursday:  Luke 2:13-15

Shepherds did not usually make midnight trips to town.  Why do you suppose that they left their responsibilities that night?  What kind of good news would be enough for you to drop everything and go?

(Spend a bit of time being quiet, and listening for God’s voice)  Dear God, when you call me, help me to drop everything and go.  Amen.

Friday:  Luke 2:16-18

Tell about a time when you talked to someone else about Jesus.  Who else could you tell today?

Dear Jesus, I thank you for being born as a real human being.  Help me to not keep this miracle to myself, but to share it with those whom you have prepared.  Amen.

Saturday:  Luke 2:19-20

The shepherds just can’t get enough of Jesus!  What is something wonderful that you want to experience again and again?  How can you invite God into that experience?

 Dear God, thank you for wonderful experiences in my life.  Help me to treasure them, and to meet you there.  Amen.

Advent to Epiphany Hymn Liturgy 2019-2020

What follows is our Advent to Epiphany of Our Lord hymn setting of the liturgy.  You are welcome to sing through this liturgy during the week as a devotional practice.  In worship, we sing the number of verses as indicated below. God bless your worship in song!

Prayer of Preparation/Lighting the Advent Wreath

Add one verse each week as the number of lit candles increases.

Kyrie

Sing a different two verses each week.

Hymn of Praise

Sing verse one each week.

Offering Song

Sing verse 3 each week.

Sanctus

Sing verse 2 on Communion Sundays.

Sending/Extinguish the Advent Wreath

Sing the same verses as at the beginning of worship.

The Whole Thing

2014 nativity scene by speakingofhistory
2014 nativity scene by speakingofhistory on flickr.com

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. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. 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. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 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.
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 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!

In Christ,

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)

Lessons and Carols for the Home: #jesusbirthatoz

Each year, I am fortunate enough to get to do a little Christmas service at two of our local assisted living facilities.  These folks are wonderful, wise adults who bring their entire lives of faith to Bible study each month, but my favorite is when we gather at Christmas time.  This year, I developed a resource to use with them, and it occurred to me that it might also be a great devotion for families who are gathering for Christmas.  It combines the old tradition of my family of singing Christmas songs together around the tree (you get to pick the songs you want to sing) with readings from Bible about the Christmas story and questions that any member of the family is more than qualified to answer, no matter their age or stage.  I hope that you enjoy this time together during one of the holiest times of the year!

Christmas Lessons and Carols for the Home

nativity by smichael cc by nc 2.0

Gathering Prayer:
Dear God, we thank you for sending Jesus to us in human form on Christmas.  Be present in our time together, in our lives, on our lips, and in our hearts.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Song: group choice

The Birth of Jesus Foretold:  Luke 1:26-38 NRSV
26 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.

Question:  Mary was surprised by the angel.  When was a time that you remember being surprised?

Song: group choice

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.

Question:  We learn that Joseph is a righteous man.  When was a time that you tried to do the right thing, even if it wasn’t popular?

Song:  group choice

The Birth of Jesus:  Luke 2:1-7 NRSV
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. 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. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 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.

Question: These are probably the most familiar few verses of the entire story.  What is the best Christmas memory that you have?

Song:  group choice

The Shepherds and the Angels:  Luke 2:8-20 NRSV
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 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.

Question:  The shepherds received the gift of being the first to be told of the birth of the Son of Man.  What was the most memorable gift that you ever received?

Song:  group choice

The Visit of the Wise Men:  Matthew 2:1-12 NRSV
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.

Question:  The wise men came a long way to give gifts to Jesus.  What is the most memorable gift that you ever gave?

Song:  group choice

The Word Became Flesh:  John 1:1-14 NRSV
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

Question:  This reading from the beginning of the Gospel of John describes the coming of Jesus as the coming of light into a dark world.  Where have you seen the light of Jesus shining in this past year?  How have you been able to be a reflection of Jesus’ light?

Song:  group choice (end with Silent Night)

Dismissal:  Go in peace.  Christ is coming.  Thanks be to God.

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Questions and order of service ©Pastor Breen Marie Sipes, Tri-Saints Lutheran Parish, ELCA 2017.  Please give credit where credit is due.

Photo “Nativity” by smichael on flickr.com CC BY-NC 2.0