13 Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”
The Massacre of the Infants: Matthew 2:16-18
16 When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and 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. 17 Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
18 “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”
Daily Questions& Prayers
Sunday: Matthew 2:13a
Joseph is dreaming again! Have you been paying attention to your dreams this season? What do they have to tell you?
Dear God, help me to listen to you, no matter how you choose to speak to me. Amen.
Monday: Matthew 2:13b
Have you ever had to get up and go without advance notice? What was that experience like?
Dear Jesus, my time is not always your time. Help me to follow your lead, even when it interrupts my plans. Amen.
Tuesday: Matthew 2:13c
What do you think it would have been like to unexpectedly have to move with a two-year-old for Mary and Joseph? What would it be like for you?
Dear God, sometimes unexpected things happen to me. When I am in the middle of something unexpected, help me to you that you are present with me. Amen.
Wednesday: Matthew 2:14
Have you ever traveled to a foreign country? What was that experience like for you? If you could travel somewhere, where would you go?
Dear God, today I pray for those who are traveling because of the threat of war or violence. Keep them safe on their journey, and help them to know that they are always at home in you. Amen.
Thursday: Matthew 2:15
What would it have been like for Mary and Joseph to learn a new language, customs, and even cuisine? What would it be like for you to do so?
Dear God, today I pray for those who live far from home. Sustain them as they learn new things, and comfort them when they miss what is familiar. Amen.
Friday: Matthew 2:16
King Herod’s actions against the children in Bethlehem are similar to Pharaoh’s in Moses’ time. Why do you think he chose to do this? Where are there places in this world where something similar is happening, even today?
Dear Jesus, today I pray for all children in the world, in our country, and in my community whose lives are threatened by violence. Help me to see this danger and act to bring peace. Amen.
Saturday: Matthew 2:17-18
Have you ever been so sad that you didn’t know if you would ever stop crying? What was that experience like? What do you think it would have been like to lose a child to violence? How can you make a difference in the lives of those who are mourning loss?
(Pray in your own words for people you know who are sad, mourning, or in pain today.)
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.
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: