Advent, Week Two

The story of the birth of Jesus is told from slightly different perspectives in the gospel writings of Matthew and Luke, but they agree that he was born in Bethlehem of Judea, a relatively small city located about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) south of Jerusalem. We are told in Luke's gospel that the Roman emperor, Augustus, decided to conduct a census (for taxation purposes) of the Empire, and directed that every man should register in person in the city of their birth. Joseph, being a descendent of King David had to travel from his home in Nazareth, in Galilee, to Bethlehem, which was also called the "city of David." 

Joseph, engaged to Mary, who was pregnant, took her with him to Bethlehem, a journey of perhaps as much as 90 miles, depending on the route they chose. It is believed that while a shorter route was possible, the rugged and mountainous terrain would have been too difficult for Mary, who was in the last weeks of her pregnancy, so the couple is likely to have walked the longer route over a period of five to seven days.

Luke tells us also that when they finally arrived in Bethlehem, they could not find lodging--the town was surely more crowded than normal because of the census--so they took refuge in a stable, where their child was born; they swaddled him and laid him in a manger, a feeding trough for animals.

Discussion: What significance, if any, is there in the fact that Jesus was born in such a rough and dirty place? 

Family activity: If you don't have some sort of child-friendly nativity set (with Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus and a manger, with farm animals, shepherds, wise men and angels, you can either make paper cutouts (your kids can color them), or download some images that you can construct into a full nativity scene. As a family, read through the Christmas narrative in Luke 2 and have your children animate the story with the nativity scene pieces and characters. (A few extra details for effect are permissible here--let your kids use their imaginations to explore what the journey might have been like, and how Mary and Joseph might have felt when they arrived in Bethlehem and had to sleep in a stable.

A song to share (YouTube link): "Just a Girl" by Brandon Heath

Advent reading for Week 2:

December 4, 2016: Second Sunday of Advent

On this second Sunday of Advent, our thoughts are turned toward Bethlehem, the city of David, where, after a long journey from Nazareth, Joseph and Mary found lodging in a stable. Their son was born there, and laid in a manger, and as the angel had instructed, they named him Jesus. Today we light the Bethlehem Candle, and remember that the love of God was poured out on the world, not in a palace, but in a stable; and we remember that Jesus was born not to a powerful royal family, but to a carpenter and his wife.
We remember the word of God that came through the prophet Micah, who wrote, “...you, Bethlehem…, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from old, from ancient times” (Micah 5:2, NLT).
 
Prayer: God, our Father, it is a mystery to us how Jesus laid aside the glory that was his in heaven, in order to come into our world, to be with us. It is a mystery, but we are grateful, because he continues to show us who You are, and how much you love us. We rejoice in the birth of our Savior, and in his continued presence with us through your Holy Spirit. Thank you, Lord for this precious gift of your Son, the living Word of God. We pray in Jesus’ name--AMEN.
 

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