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.
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: