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Bible passage: Luke 2:1-20
Background: “The angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I am bringing you good news that will be a great joy to all the people’” (Luke 2:10).
PRAYER AND WORSHIP
You will need: a microphone
As you gather together, invite members of the congregation to share their one-liner ‘good news’ stories from the past week, either by coming to the front or by sending a roving microphone around the room. Encourage all ages to share their stories, whether simple or profound, about things they have found to be ‘good news’ in their own lives this week. Draw together in prayer, thanking God for the way this community has been blessed.
You will need: paper chains; pens
Before the session, prepare or purchase ready-made paper chains. Give every member of the congregation a short length of chain and encourage them to write or draw their own prayer or word of praise about who Jesus is to them. Gather these together and form a large paper chain from everyone’s individual prayers, hanging them up somewhere on display as a shared, creative act of prayer.
You will need: a selection of Bible character (nativity) costumes and simple props (you could invite members of your congregation to come dressed up ready for this service)
Begin by asking: did you ever get to play a part in a nativity play? Who has starred as Mary? Who was given the part of second sheep? Today, you are all welcome to take part in our nativity play, whether you have a costume or not. It doesn’t matter if we end up with 19 Marys and only one sheep. You are welcome to play a part.
Allow some time for people to select an appropriate costume or prop if they so wish, and explain that as you tell this very wellknown story each participant should ad-lib, coming up to join in at the appropriate point in the narrative. Encourage participants to join you at the appropriate points, and pause to allow them time to do so, but try to maintain the flow. Tell this story:
Long, long, long ago, God promised that one day he would send a special gift that would be for all the people. Long, long ago, that gift was given.
There was at that time a young girl called Mary, who was engaged to Joseph, a carpenter, who was the great, great, great, great (well, lots of greats) grandson of King David. Close to the time when Mary’s baby was due to be born the Roman rulers called a census, so everyone had to return to their home town to be registered. Mary and Joseph travelled to Bethlehem, Joseph’s family home.
While they were there, the baby was born! But not in a lovely clean hospital, not even in a fancy hotel with a beautiful new crib from Mothercare. There was no room for the family with all the other visiting guests, so poor Mary had to use an animals’ feeding trough as a bed for her newborn baby son.
That very night on the hills nearby some shepherds were out, perhaps sitting around the fire, guarding their sheep. Suddenly, an angel appeared in the skies above them, saying: “Do not be afraid. I bring good news that will be a great joy for all the people.” As you say these words, point to members of the cast, and also to other members of the congregation. “Today, your Saviour has been born.”
The angel told the shepherds, who were probably finding this pretty hard to take in, where they should go to find the newborn baby. Then a large group of angels surrounded them, singing praises to God in heaven: “Glory to God in heaven and peace to all people on earth.”
The shepherds did exactly as the angels told them. They ran down to Bethlehem, where they found the baby Jesus lying in the manger, just as they had said. Everyone was amazed at the shepherd’s story, but Mary listened quietly, keeping all these things in her heart.
You will need: a large box wrapped in Christmas wrapping paper; gift tags; pens
Ask the congregation to think about what gift they would give the baby Jesus. What gift can they give him today? Distribute the gift tags and pens and ask everyone to write or draw a short prayer, or perhaps just a few words as a response, before attaching their gift tag to the large box. Together, without reading any particular prayers aloud, pray over this box, committing yourselves in worship to Jesus.
You will need: small, round pebbles; acrylic paint and paintbrushes; cover-up and clean-up facilities
The angels told the shepherds this baby was good news for all the people. Encourage members of the congregation to paint a pebble as the baby Jesus – a simple baby wrapped in white swaddling cloths – using the acrylic paints provided. You could also use a marker pen to add a verse, the church’s name or a message on the underside. Encourage the congregation to take their pebbles away with them and place them somewhere in the local community, literally taking the gift of Jesus out to all the people.
Divide into mixed-age groups and discuss these questions:
- Why do you think we celebrate this story?
- What would you like to ask Mary about the night Jesus was born?
- Why do you think Jesus’ birth took place in this way?
- What does it mean for Jesus to be a gift for all the people?
- What does it mean for Jesus to be a gift for you?
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