Many families enjoy re-telling the events that happened around the time that someone was born – the mad dash to the hospital, nervous pacing in the waiting room, funny names that your parents almost gave you.
Luke begins his gospel by telling the story surrounding Jesus’ birth. Did you know that Jesus was born next to animals? That’s unusual isn’t it?! Where were you born? Jesus was born next to animals because his parents had to travel out-of-town and the extra spaces were full.
Over 400 years ago in Mexico, the tradition of celebrating Las Posadas began. La Posada is the Spanish word for lodging or inn. Every year in December, Mexican children reenact Mary and Joseph’s search for lodging in Bethlehem.
This year for two nights we are going to talk about Mary and Joseph’s journey, too!
If you like, you can put a few items in a basket to accompany your family storytelling time: objects like cloth, a Mary figure, a baby Jesus figure, a Joseph figure, barnyard animals, and a candle. Families in your church or small group can take turns hosting Jesus in their homes and then pass it to the next family.
Let’s consider the realities of Jesus as a baby – a real, live, crying baby with demands to be fed and comforted. Let’s enter into the challenges and mysteries that faced Mary and Joseph as they prepared for and welcomed their son – God’s son.
Sometime this December, enjoy a few quiet moments together with your loved ones as you invite Jesus to be born in your home, in your family and in our community.
GATHER your family around a table or other flat surface.
INVITE the children to arrange the figures and other items in the basket (and even the basket itself) into a scene.
LIGHT the candle.
- What are the things that families do to get ready for a baby?
- Any preparations Mary and Joseph made were interrupted by their need to travel. Mary might have brought along the cloths that she used to wrap Jesus; they used an animal feeding trough as his crib. Do you think Jesus’ birth happened in a way that Mary and Joseph expected? How does it feel when things don’t happen the way we expect them to?
- God’s Son, Jesus, did not come in the way anyone expected him to. What might the people in Bethlehem have done differently if they had known it was Jesus, the Messiah, about to be born in their town?
SING a verse of a favorite Christmas carol together.
We welcome you into our home tonight. We want to make room for you in our hearts and in our lives every day. Sometimes time goes by so quickly and there is so much to get done each day. Help us to recognize you when you show up at our door of our hearts asking if there is room. Help us to see that it is you, especially when you come in a way, or at a time, that is unexpected.
CLOSE this time by extinguishing the candle or leaving it lit throughout a meal or the evening’s activities. Leave the figurines displayed if possible.
Additional questions to ponder with older children and adults:
- Mary and Joseph, the shepherds, and the wise men were all away from home when they experienced Jesus’ birth. How can being away from home open us to encountering God in new ways? Has there been a time when you have seen God in a new way away from home? Share these stories.
- Imagine how Mary and Joseph must have felt as they found there wasn’t room for them. What kind of pressure was Joseph under? What fears might Mary have had?
- Moms and Dads, what is it like to wait 40 weeks for a baby to be born? What are the hard parts? What are the fun parts? Think of a time when you have waited for Jesus to arrive in a situation. What was the waiting like? Are you waiting now? What comforts you in your waiting?
GATHER your family around the scene that was created the previous day.
LIGHT the candle.
- Have you ever gotten to see or hold a brand new baby? What are they like? What do they need? What would it have been like to hold a brand new baby with animals nearby?
- The Christmas carol Away in a Manger makes it sound like baby Jesus didn’t cry:“But little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes.” But Jesus was a real baby and he did what all babies do. What kinds of things do babies do?
- It’s hard to describe how a mom and dad feel when their baby is finally born. It’s a mix of happy and relieved, with a little nervous thrown in. Take a few moments and share about the day the children in your family were born. What were your thoughts, how did you feel? Mary and Joseph must have felt all of those things, too. What do you think they said to Jesus and to each other as they huddled together that first night?
SING a verse from a favorite Christmas carol together.
Thank you for being our guest. You are always welcome in our home. Like Mary and Joseph, we feel all sorts of things when you come into our lives. But most of all we are grateful. Teach us to look for your arrival, help us to wait with anticipation and show us what it means to make room for you.
CLOSE this time by extinguishing the candle or leaving it lit throughout a meal or the evening’s activities.
INVITE the children to pack the figurines and other items back into the basket and offer a prayer for the next family who will host them.
Additional questions to talk about with older children and adults:
- Read Philippians 2:5-11. Verse 8 tells us that Jesus “humbled himself”. What did Jesus give up when he became not only a human but a baby? What do we learn from this example about what humility looks like?
- Tonight we asked the question, “What kinds of things do babies do?” I’m sure the list included some pretty “earthy” things. For every stage of Jesus’ life we could make a similar list. He got tired, hurt, sick, and sad. What is your gut reaction to this list? In what ways does it fit or not fit with your ideas about who Jesus is?
- Moms and dads, take a moment to remember bringing your first child home. What was that first night like? Re-orienting a babies’ days and nights can take us to the limits of what’s humanly possible! What do you think Mary and Joseph’s first days and nights with Jesus were like?