Christmas. Welcome to our take-away Christmas Kit.

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1 Welcome to our take-away Christmas Kit. Lots of us are traveling at this time of the year and we can t all get together to share in the strange and wonderful mystery of the Christmas story. So, instead we can share together in the Take-Away Kit. Find some time wherever you are on Christmas Eve, gather with people you love and share the Kit. Hereʼs how: Begin with a few moments of silence. Share the starting prayer together. Have some fun with the Ten Questions about Christmas. Have someone read aloud the Christmas Story. Sing a Christmas song together. Share the poems together and, if you would like to, talk together about what they mean to you. Make a Christmas star or two. (You will need some square or strips of coloured paper.) Write a Christmas wish letter to someone who needs some grace, hope and trust (three things our poems talk about). Say the blessing prayer for each other (place your hand on each person you pray for).

2 Starting Prayer Dear God, It is Christmas again and we want to remember. We are thankful for people we love, we are thankful for opportunities to celebrate but most of all we are thankful for Jesus, Emanuel, God with us! As we share in these few moments together with friends near and far, remind us, Emanuel, God is with us! Amen.

3 Ten questions about Christmas How much do you really know about Christmas? 1. Jesus was born in what town? Jerusalem Nazareth Bethlehem 2. Why didn t Joseph and Mary stay at the inn? It was too expensive There was no inn There was no room None of the above 3. How did Joseph and Mary get to Bethlehem? Colt Mary rode a donkey and Joseph walked wagon Who knows? 4. A manger is a: stable feeding trough wooden table barn 5. Which animals does the Bible say were housed in the stable? cows, donkeys, sheep lions, tigers and bears goats, sheep and cows The Bible doesn t say.

4 6. What sign were the shepherds told to look for by the angel? a lion and a sheep together in peace a tree with a star on top a star over Bethlehem none of the above 7. What is frankincense? a form of gold an incense from a tree a jewel none of the above. 8. How many wise men came to see Jesus? One Two Three The Bible doesn t say 9. What does "wise men" most likely refer to? lawyers astronomers priests doctors 10. The wise men met Jesus in a: manger castle stable house

5 Ten questions about Christmas: The Answers 1. Jesus was born in what town? Bethlehem Matthew 2:1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, Why didn t Joseph and Mary stay at the inn? There was no room. Luke 2:7 "... because there was no room for them in the inn." 3. How did Joseph and Mary get to Bethlehem? We don t know. The Bible doesn't say. Some suppose that she rode something since she was so far along in her pregnancy. 4. A manger is a: Feeding trough. It comes from a Greek word that means "to eat". 5. Which animals does the Bible say were housed in the stable? The Bible doesn't say. 6. What sign were the shepherds told to look for by the angel? None of the Above Luke 2:12 "And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger." 7. What is frankincense? A valuable incense made from the sap of a tree 8. How many wise men came to see Jesus? No one knows, but more than one. Some SUPPOSE that there were three since there were three gifts, but that is just a guess. Matthew 2:1 "Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem," 9. What does "wise men" most likely refer to? Astronomers. See most any commentary. Astronomers or star gazers could often navigate, predict the times for best planting, knew math, astronomy and calendar systems. They were very important in agricultural societies. 10. The wise men met Jesus in a: House. Matthew 2:11 "And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh."

6 The story of Jesusʼ birth as told in Matthewʼs Gospel The birth of Jesus took place like this. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. Before they came to the marriage bed, Joseph discovered she was pregnant. (It was by the Holy Spirit, but he didn't know that.) Joseph, chagrined but noble, determined to take care of things quietly so Mary would not be disgraced. While he was trying to figure a way out, he had a dream. God's angel spoke in the dream: "Joseph, son of David, don't hesitate to get married. Mary's pregnancy is Spiritconceived. God's Holy Spirit has made her pregnant. She will bring a son to birth, and when she does, you, Joseph, will name him Jesus 'God saves' because he will save his people from their sins." This would bring the prophet's embryonic sermon to full term: Watch for this a virgin will get pregnant and bear a son; They will name him Immanuel (Hebrew for "God is with us"). Then Joseph woke up. He did exactly what God's angel commanded in the dream: He married Mary. But he did not consummate the marriage until she had the baby. He named the baby Jesus. After Jesus was born in Bethlehem village, Judah territory this was during Herod's kingship a band of scholars arrived in Jerusalem from the East. They asked around, "Where can we find and pay homage to the newborn King of the Jews? We observed a star in the eastern sky that signaled his birth. We're on pilgrimage to worship him." When word of their inquiry got to Herod, he was terrified and not Herod alone, but most of Jerusalem as well. Herod lost no time. He gathered all the high priests and religion scholars in the city together and asked, "Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?"

7 They told him, "Bethlehem, Judah territory. The prophet Micah wrote it plainly: It's you, Bethlehem, in Judah's land, no longer bringing up the rear. From you will come the leader who will shepherd-rule my people, my Israel." Herod then arranged a secret meeting with the scholars from the East. Pretending to be as devout as they were, he got them to tell him exactly when the birthannouncement star appeared. Then he told them the prophecy about Bethlehem, and said, "Go find this child. Leave no stone unturned. As soon as you find him, send word and I'll join you at once in your worship." Instructed by the king, they set off. Then the star appeared again, the same star they had seen in the eastern skies. It led them on until it hovered over the place of the child. They could hardly contain themselves: They were in the right place! They had arrived at the right time! They entered the house and saw the child in the arms of Mary, his mother. Overcome, they kneeled and worshiped him. Then they opened their luggage and presented gifts: gold, frankincense, myrrh. In a dream, they were warned not to report back to Herod. So they worked out another route, left the territory without being seen, and returned to their own country. After the scholars were gone, God's angel showed up again in Joseph's dream and commanded, "Get up. Take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt. Stay until further notice. Herod is on the hunt for this child, and wants to kill him." Joseph obeyed. He got up, took the child and his mother under cover of darkness. They were out of town and well on their way by daylight. They lived in Egypt until Herod's death. This Egyptian exile fulfilled what Hosea had preached: "I called my son out of Egypt."

8 Herod, when he realized that the scholars had tricked him, flew into a rage. He commanded the murder of every little boy two years old and under who lived in Bethlehem and its surrounding hills. (He determined that age from information he'd gotten from the scholars.) That's when Jeremiah's sermon was fulfilled: A sound was heard in Ramah, weeping and much lament. Rachel weeping for her children, Rachel refusing all solace, Her children gone, dead and buried. Later, when Herod died, God's angel appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt: "Up, take the child and his mother and return to Israel. All those out to murder the child are dead." Joseph obeyed. He got up, took the child and his mother, and reentered Israel. When he heard, though, that Archelaus had succeeded his father, Herod, as king in Judea, he was afraid to go there. But then Joseph was directed in a dream to go to the hills of Galilee. On arrival, he settled in the village of Nazareth. This move was a fulfillment of the prophetic words, "He shall be called a Nazarene." (Matthew 1:18-2:23, from The Message)

9 A song to sing quietly together Light of the Nations Light of the nations Sight of the blinded You are our freedom From every dark prison Shine your light on the world (x2) An alternative, if you arenʼt sure of the tune: This Little Light of Mine This little light of mine, Iʼm going to let it shine. This little light of mine, Iʼm going to let it shine. This little light of mine, Iʼm going to let it shine. Let it shine, Let it shine, Let it shine.

10 Three poems that invite us into the mystery of Christmas The Avowal As swimmers dare to lie face to the sky and water bears them, as hawks rest upon air and air sustains them, so would I learn to attain free fall and float into Creator Spiritʼs deep embrace, knowing no effort earns that all surrounding grace. Denise Levertov

11 Three poems that invite us into the mystery of Christmas Trust It's like so many other things in life to which you must say no or yes. So you take your car to the new mechanic. Sometimes the best thing to do is trust. The package left with the disreputable-looking clerk, the check gulped by the night deposit, the envelope passed by dozens of strangers all show up at their intended destinations. The theft that could have happened doesn't. Wind finally gets where it was going through the snowy trees, and the river, even when frozen, arrives at the right place. And sometimes you sense how faithfully your life is delivered, even though you can't read the address. Thomas R. Smith

12 Three poems that invite us into the mystery of Christmas The Kingdom It's a long way off, but inside it There are quite different things going on: Festivals at which the poor man Is king and the consumptive is Healed: mirrors in which the blind look At themselves and love looks at them Back: and industry is for mending The bent bones and the minds fractured By life. It's a long way off, but to get There takes no time and admission, Is free, if you will purge yourself Of desire and present yourself with Your need only and the simple offering Of your faith, green as a leaf R S Thomas

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15 Blessing Prayer Dear God, We pray for [...]. Thank you for being with them all of their life. Help them to know how much you love them. Help them to remember you this Christmas and to live the coming year in love and joy. Amen.

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