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Bible passage: Luke 1:26-38; Matthew 1:18-21
Background: Since we hear this story every year, it’s easy to lose sight of how extraordinary it is. Leaving aside the whole mind-boggling concept of God taking on human form, he chooses to enter the world in a staggeringly messy way. Gabriel visits a down-at-theheel town (John 1:46) to announce to an unmarried teenage girl that she will give birth to the Son of God, while another angel has to appear to her fiancé to convince him not to break off their engagement. Why on earth does God go about this in such a complicated way? The truth is, he often does things we don’t fully understand. But he is at work in our mess. And “nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).
Take some time to eat, drink and chat with your young people. You could also play a few rounds of ‘Good news, bad news’. The first player thinks of a piece of good news (eg “We’re going to the beach.”). The next player thinks of a reason why this is bad news (eg “It’s raining.”). The third player finds another reason why this is good news (eg “There will be fewer people on the beach, so more space for us.”). Continue for as long as the young people’s interest holds.
You will need: foam balls
Ask the young people to stand at one end of the room or an outdoor playing area. Equip the leaders (and one or two volunteers, if needs be) with foam balls. On the word ‘Go!’ the young people must attempt to reach the opposite end of the room without being hit below the waist by the foam balls as they are thrown by the leaders. Anyone hit by a ball is out of the game and joins the leaders for the next round. The last player left in the game wins.
For an extra complication, divide the players into pairs and insist that they join hands with their partner as they move from one end to the other. Failing to do so will result in disqualification.
You will need: Bibles; nativity story images; felt-tip pens; paper
Before the session, gather a few different images of the Nativity: some cutesy, some understated and some classic works of art. You should find plenty of images on the internet. For a little extra edge, include one or two more provocative images. For instance, try searching for ‘refugee Jesus’. Show the group the images you have collected and ask them which they think is the closest to how the birth of Jesus would really have been.
Next, give out the Bibles and have the group read Luke 2:1-7. Let the young people draw their own pictures of how they think the Nativity story would have looked. Encourage the young people to think about what the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, and giving birth where the animals lived, would have been like. Compare the finished pictures with the images you showed earlier.
Following on from the ‘Bible exploration’ section, use the following questions as a starting point for discussion:
- How did Jesus end up being born where the animals lived? What was the sequence of events that led to that?
- Why is Bethlehem significant? (Check out Micah 5:2 if you’re not sure. This suggests that Jesus fulfils a prophecy of a great leader coming from Bethlehem.)
- This must have been a scary and confusing experience for Mary and Joseph: a strange order from a hostile government, a long and dangerous journey, and giving birth in difficult surroundings. What comfort is there for us here when our own lives seem scary and confusing?
- If Jesus was born into poverty, how should that affect our attitude toward any poor people around us?
You will need: a football; written or printed Bible references; a Bible
Before the session, write or type out the following Bible references onto slips of paper: Romans 8:28, Genesis 50:20, James 1:2-4, Romans 5:3-5, 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, John 9:1-3, Isaiah 53:4, Romans 8:38-39, Isaiah 43:2, Joshua 1:9, Isaiah 61:1-3 and Galatians 6:2.
All of these verses relate to how God might be at work in confusing situations. Either tape these references onto a football or, if possible, write them directly onto an old ball.
Gather the young people into a circle. Throw the ball to one of them. Ask them to read out the Bible reference closest to their left thumb. Ask someone else to look this reference up in the Bible and read it out. Briefly discuss how God might be at work in situations we find scary or confusing in the light of this verse. Repeat with different group members and different Bible verses.
Invite the young people to make themselves comfortable and close their eyes. Allow plenty of time for the following reflection:
Ask the young people to think about a situation they will face in the next week or two that they are expecting to find hard. Ask them to picture this situation in their mind. Next, ask them to imagine that Jesus is with them in this situation. He could be walking, standing or sitting, depending on whatever they’re doing. What do they want to say to Jesus? And what would Jesus say to them? Finally, how does having Jesus there change the situation? Do things go differently? Or does it all just feel easier to handle with Jesus there
Finish with a short, spoken prayer, thanking Jesus for walking with us and for understanding how scary and confusing life can be.
The Christmas story has a poor, marginalised and probably confused family at its heart. This would be an excellent time of year for your group to take action to help the poor in your community. Give some thought to how you might best do this.
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