December 25 ~ Blessings From Bethlehem

• A Christmas Letter From Luke •
Background @ Luke 1:1-4 (dedication)
@ Mark 1:1a (the beginning of the Good News)
“Four hundred years after the last Old Testament book was written, the story of the New Testament begins to unfold, around 6 B.C.  The beginning of the Good News is about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God. Many people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us. They used the eyewitness reports circulating among us from the early disciples. Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write a careful account for you, most honorable, so you can be certain of the truth of everything you were taught.” ~ Luke
Story @ John 1:1-18

Winslow Homer
1836-1910
American Naturalist painter, illustrator, engraver and etcher
The Angler
1874
59.7 x 96.9 cms | 23 1/2 x 38 ins
Oil on canvas

•The Birth of John the Baptist Foretold•
Background @ Luke 1:5-7
When Herod was king of Judea, there was a Jewish priest named Zechariah. He was a member of the priestly order of Abijah, and his wife, Elizabeth, was also from the priestly line of Aaron. Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations. They had no children because Elizabeth was unable to conceive, and they were both very old.
Story @ Luke 1:5-25

•The Birth of Jesus Foretold•
Background @ Luke 1:26-29
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!” Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean.
Story @ Luke 1:26-45
Prayer by Mary of Nazareth @  Luke 1:42-56

•The Birth of John the Baptist•
Background @ Luke 1:5-25 (the birth of John the Baptist foretold)
@ Luke 1:57
When it was time for Elizabeth’s baby to be born, she gave birth to a son.
Story @ Luke 1:57-66,80

•Zechariah’s Prophecy•
Background @ Luke 1:5-25,57-66,80  (the birth of John the Baptist)
@ Luke 1:67
There was an old Jewish priest who was righteous in God’s eyes named Zechariah.  While Zechariah was in the sanctuary serving the Lord, the angel Gabriel appeared to him to foretell the birth of his son. But since Zechariah did not believe what Gabriel said, Zechariah went silent, unable to speak until the child was born. When the baby was 8 days old, Zechariah wrote on a tablet, “His name is John.”  Instantly, Zechariah could speak again, and he began praising God. He was filled with the Holy Spirit and gave this prophecy.
Story @ Luke 1:67-80

•The Birth of Jesus the Messiah•
Background @ John 1:1-18 (prologue)
@ Matthew 1:1-17 (the record of Jesus’ ancestors)
@ Luke 1:26-45 (the birth of Jesus foretold)
@ Luke 2:1-4
Jesus was born approximately six months after John, his relative. The ancestors of Jesus include:
14 generations from Abraham to David
14 generations from David to Babylonian exile and
14 generations from the Babylonian exile to the Messiah
There had gone out a decree from the Roman Emperor Augustus that all the world should be taxed. All went to be taxed, every one to his own city. Because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee.
Story @ Matthew 1:18-25 || @ Luke 2:1-7
Prayer by Mary of Nazareth @ Luke 1:42-56

•The Shepherds and The Angels•
Background @ Matthew 1:18-25 (Mary and Joseph) || @ Luke 2:1-7 (the birth of Jesus the Messiah)
@ Luke 2:8
This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus.” Because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he traveled to Bethlehem from the village of Nazareth in Galilee to register for the Roman Empire census, decreed by the Emperor Augustus. Joseph took with him Mary, his fiancee, who was now obviously pregnant. And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them. That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby guarding their flock of sheep. This is where our story starts.
Story @ Luke 2:8-20

•The Story of the Wise Men•
MUSIC & HYMNS: Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Magnificat”, Salt of the Sound’s “Star of Wonder and Noel”, and from the hymn book, “We Three Kings”
SPECIAL MUSIC, Song of Praise by Mary of Nazareth @ Luke 1:45-56 (NLT)
PSALM RESPONSIVE READING @ Psalm 19:1-4 (NLT)
SCRIPTURE @ Matthew 25:34-40, New Living Translation (NLT)
NARRATE the BACKGROUND @ John 1:1-5,10-12,14a (prologue)
@ Matthew 1:18-25 (Mary and Joseph) || @ Luke 2:1-7 (the birth of Jesus the Messiah)
“In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him,and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. So the Word became human and made his home among us.”
How can this be? No recognition! Even so, God interrupts righteous lives to bring us the condescension of the humble, tiny babe Jesus through peasant parents on this wise, which was spoken of the Lord by his prophet, saying, “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name €mmanuel, which being interpreted as, ‘God with us.’” Christ is about to visit our world differently, that we might behold him and not be destroyed!
Far to the east, a group of wise men gathered to study the prophecies of the Holy Scriptures. They were called Magi, learned men such as philosophers and astronomers. This is where our story begins.
NARRATE the STORY @ Matthew 2:1-12 (NLT)
CLOSING PRAYER by Jesus of Nazareth @ John 17:23 (NLT)

The Starry Night
Vicent van Gogh
1889
Oil on canvas
73.7 x 92.1 cm
(29.02″ x 36.26″)
Museum of Modern Art (New York, New York, United States)

•The Escape to Egypt and the Return to Nazareth•
Background @ Matthew 1:18-25 (Mary and Joseph) || @ Luke 2:1-7 (the birth of Jesus the Messiah)
@ Matthew 2:1-12 (the wise men)
@ Matthew 2:13
Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. The visit of the wise men probably took place around two years after Jesus was born. After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said, “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
Story @ Matthew 2:13-23

•Jesus Speaks with the Teachers•
Background @ Luke 2:21-40 (Jesus presented in the Temple, the prophecies of Simeon and Anna)
@ Matthew 2:19-23 (the return to Nazareth)
@ Luke 2:41-42
Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon Simeon and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. That day the Spirit led him to the Temple. So when Mary and Joseph came to Jerusalem to present and dedicate the baby to the Lord as the law required, Simeon was there. He took the baby in his arms and praised God saying, “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised. I have seen your salvation, which you have prepared for all people. He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!” Anna, a prophet, was also there in the Temple. She never left the Temple but stayed there day and night, worshiping God with fasting and prayer. She came along just as Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph, and she began praising God. The child grew up healthy and strong. He was filled with wisdom, and God’s favor was on him. When Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt. “Get up!” the angel said, “Take the child and his mother back to the land of Israel, because those who were trying to kill the child are dead.” Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Passover festival. When Jesus was twelve years old, they attended the festival as usual. This is where our story begins.
Story @ Luke 2:41-52


John Singer Sargent (1856-1925)
Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose
Oil on canvas
1885-1886
173.99 x 153.67 cm
(68½” x 60½”)

•Jesus Blesses the Children•
HYMNS & WORSHIP from the hymn book: “Come Thou Fount”, “Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus”, “How Great thou Art”
PSALMS RESPONSIVE READING @ Psalm 100 (NLT)
NARRATE the BACKGROUND @ Luke 2:21-52 (Jesus presented in the Temple, the prophecies, Jesus speaks with the teachers)
@ Mark 9:30-32 (NLT)
Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Passover festival. When Jesus was twelve years old, they attended the festival as usual. And it came to pass, that after three days they found Jesus in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers. And when they saw him, his parents were amazed: and his mother said unto him, “Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.” And he said unto them, “How is it that ye sought me? Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them. And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. Years later, Jesus was teaching the disciples about his death, and how he would be betrayed into the hands of his enemies. The disciples were filled with grief. Then they left Galilee to the region of Judea east of the Jordan. This is where our young children’s story begins.
NARRATE the STORY @ Mark 9:33-37, and chapter 10:13-16 (NLT)
PRAYER by Jesus @ Matthew 11:25-30 (NLT)

~ §tacy §weeney