Bible Reading - Luke 2: 1-7 (CEV)
About that time Emperor Augustus gave orders for the names of all the people to be listed in record books. These first records were made when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone had to go to their own hometown to be listed. So Joseph had to leave Nazareth in Galilee and go to Bethlehem in Judea. Long ago Bethlehem had been King David's hometown, and Joseph went there because he was from David's family. Mary was engaged to Joseph and traveled with him to Bethlehem. She was soon going to have a baby, and while they were there, she gave birth to her first-born son. She dressed him in baby clothes and laid him on a bed of hay, because there was no room for them in the inn.
1. What orders did Emperor Augustus give?
2. Where did people have to go to be listed?
3. Why did the baby lie on a bed of hay?
All this build-up! Don't blink or you might miss the moment. Despite all the visits from angels in the build-up to this point in the story, the announcement to us of Jesus' birth slips in quietly at the end of a sentence. If you had visions in your head of angels heralding, trumpets sounding and stars flashing, you're a little early in the story. Jesus is born. Talk about an understated moment of history. It almost reads as an afterthought or an aside. "Oh, and by the way, while they were there, she had a baby."
Every birth story is different, just as every baby is different. For some, the overwhelming experience is joyous and happy. For others, it is full of pain, suffering and loss. Whatever the outcome of birth, whether happy or sad, for most mothers the time surrounding the birth is a memory they carry forever. Some birth stories are told and retold until the child who listens to his or her own story almost knows it so well that it feels like their own memory. Other birth stories are left untold. You might know your own birth story or perhaps it's a story you've never heard or can't remember.
Whether we know the stories surrounding our birth or not, birth is an experience that we have all had. It is one of a short list of common things which every individual that ever lives will experience. God could have sent Jesus to us some other way. Jesus was born. The surroundings, though humble for a king, are not the miracle of this birth. The appearances of angels, though spectacular and rare, are not the miracle of this birth. The real miracle in the birth of Jesus is that God chose for Jesus to be born, to live and to die.
Do you know any of the stories surrounding your birth and early years? Where were you born? Why? What was it like for your parents at that time? What were the circumstances surrounding your birth? How do you feel about your own story? Are there other birth stories in your family that you know? Are they happy or sad stories?
Materials you will need: a street map of your city, a larger map of your country, or even a map of the whole world or internet access to a map.
Look up on a map to find the places where each member of the family was born. You might want to look up and see where some of your ancestors were born too.
Make a baby Jesus to hang on your tree and remember we all have a beginning story.
Materials you will need: A wooden bead, a pipe-cleaner, white satin ribbon, a cotton-wool ball, thread and glue.
1. Thread the pipe-cleaner through the wooden bead.
2. Bend the pipe-cleaner so the body is an appropriate length for the head.
3. Push a cotton-wool ball into the pipe-cleaner.
4. Wrap the satin ribbon around the baby, starting at the bead head and going around so that it looks like a baby in wrapped in a blanket.
5. Thread a piece of cord through the ribbon at the top of the head.
6. Hang from your Christmas tree.
Find a map of Israel at the time of Jesus' birth. Trace Mary and Joseph's journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem.
Find out more about the Messiah the Jews were waiting to welcome.
Find a baby photo of yourself or a photo of your child. Hold it in your hand. How different are you today from your baby photo? What were the hopes and dreams that people had for you when you were born? Say a one sentence prayer to God. You could give thanks for something about your birth or the birth of your child. Or you could ask for help to cope with something about your birth or the birth of your child.
We give you thanks for the birth of Jesus.
There isn't much else we share in common with every other living person in this world, but we do share this one miracle - the miracle of birth.
We pray for those feel pain and sadness when they think of their own birth, the birth of someone else, or problems and difficulties they've experienced in trying to give birth.
We ask you to be with those who are feeling such deep pain, grief and loss.
We pray for those we know who are expecting babies right now. We ask for both a safe pregnancy and birth of their babies.
We pray specifically for___________ and ask you would be with them at this time.