2 In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 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.” 3 When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
6 ‘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.’”
7 Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8 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.” 9 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 Questions& Prayers
Sunday: Matthew 2:1-2
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?
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.
Monday: Matthew 2:3-4
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?
Dear Jesus, give me wisdom and knowledge. Help me to trust, that I may be guided in your way. Amen.
Tuesday: Matthew 2:5-6
Bethlehem is a little like the towns that we live in. What would it be like if someone famous was from your town? What would you like our towns to be famous for?
(Pray for your town using your own words.)
Wednesday: Matthew 2:7-8
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?
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.
Thursday: Matthew 2:9-10
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 to you?
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.
Friday: Matthew 2:11
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 received?
Dear Jesus, thank you for reminding me of just who you really are. Help me to be generous, both in giving and receiving. Amen.
Saturday: Matthew 2:12
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?
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.
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.
Sing a different two verses each week.
Hymn of Praise
Sing verse one each week.
Sing verse 3 each week.
Sing verse 2 on Communion Sundays.
Sending/Extinguish the Advent Wreath
Sing the same verses as at the beginning of worship.
1On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” 5His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. 9When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom 10and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
ELCA Book of Faith Devotional Questions:
What scares, confuses, or challenges me in this text? What do I have questions about? I have always been a little disturbed by the way that Jesus seems to treat his mother in this text. She notices the situation, he responds with a sort of huffy, “Woman! It’s not the right time!” and then she forces his hand by telling the servants to do what he says. I don’t even want to consider my mother’s reaction if I called her “Woman”! I consulted a couple of commentaries on this text, and found out that what is translated here as “Woman” might more accurately be translated “Madam” or “My Lady,” a sign of respect, not disrespect. It’s good to remember once in a while that our Bible is a translation from Ancient Hebrew and Greek, and that if something seems a little fishy, it’s a good idea to as the fine Lutheran question, “What does this mean?” But what about the rest of the exchange? Why does Mary insist that Jesus first reveal his power at a wedding? Why this wedding in particular? The commentary from SALT suggested that it is important that the last, the least, and the lowly are the ones who Jesus responds to. A woman notices the need and asks Jesus to act, and the servants serving at the banquet are the first-hand witnesses of the miracle. It is not a story about the powerful asking for more power, but the lowly being lifted up by the power of God. This is who Jesus is, and so now this first sign makes a bit more sense.
What delights me in this text? What is my favorite part, and why? Once my eyes had been opened to the power dynamics in this story, I find myself more drawn to it. Each time we take Holy Communion together, we talk about the feast that never ends, where Jesus is the host, and we are the guests. What better place to reveal his power for the first time than at a wedding banquet? Like his reimagining of the Passover Meal on Maundy Thursday, this first sign also points to the place that we have reserved at the last banquet. Isaiah imagines it this way:
On this mountain the Lord of hosts
will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines,
of rich food filled with marrow,
of well-aged wines strained clear. (Isaiah 25:6 NRSV)
In the wedding at Cana, Jesus goes from guest to host, from human person to Son of God. It just makes you wonder what amazing thing might happen next, doesn’t it?
What stories or memories does this text stir up in me? How does this story connect to the story of my life? This text reminds me of the rehearsal dinner for our wedding. We had such an overabundance of food that we were giving away whole pans of meat and potatoes and side dishes to friends after the cleanup. I remember wondering why this had happened, and being a bit irritated at the wasted expense. I later learned, however, that when my husband’s brother got married they ran out of food at the rehearsal dinner, and wedding party and parents went hungry. My in-laws didn’t want to see that happen again, so they made sure to provide more than enough, and some financially strained seminary students benefited with leftovers for days. What a miracle!
What is God up to in this text? What is God calling me to do or to be because of this message? This text is the third of the three great Epiphanies that traditionally kick off the Epiphany season (the others are the visit of the wise men and Jesus’ baptism). In these Epiphanies, Jesus is revealed to be who he really is by visitors from foreign nations, by God’s own words from heaven, and to women and servants in his own neighborhood. These Revelations set up just how Jesus will continue to reveal himself during his earthly ministry, and just who he has come to serve. Where is Goes abundantly present in your life, like at the wedding at Cana? If you can’t readily answer this question (it can be a tough one), where might you look to find God at work during the rest of this season filled with revelation?
As always, I look forward to diving deeper into this text with you as we Dwell in the Word together over the course of this month. May the light of Christ shine on you and illumine your path.
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!
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)