Mennonite Church USA’s 2021 Advent at Home devotional, “Dare to Imagine,” was written by Talashia Keim Yoder, pastor of Christian Formation at College Mennonite Church in Goshen, Indiana.
We invite you to wait for Jesus as we share weekly reflections and activities for all ages. Download the full Advent At Home worship guide.
Week five: God incarnate!
Christmas Day and Week of December 26
Focus Scripture: Luke 2:1-20
Additional Lectionary Scriptures: 1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26; Psalm 148; Colossians 3:12-17; Luke 2:41-52
Weekly worship ritual
Connect to the “big story”
God created a good world. We were created to live peacefully, but we often miss the mark. When that happens, we have to deal with the consequences, but God sticks with us. Our whole story is a story of God sticking with us. In the Bible, God called Abraham and Sarah’s family to be a blessing to the earth, and even when they missed the mark, God stuck with them. When the people were in slavery and cried out to God, God stuck with them by sending Moses to lead them. When the people of God had a hard time understanding how to live God’s law of love in community, God sent leaders like Joshua, judges like Deborah, and prophets like Samuel to bring the people back to God.
The people wanted to be ruled by kings. Things didn’t always go well under kings, and the kingdom divided in two. Both of these kingdoms were eventually invaded by other nations. Some people were taken away into exile, and some were left in the ruins of the land. God continued to stick with the people, often through calling prophets, who pointed the people back to God and back to a community of shalom. Eventually, the exiled people were allowed to return home. They began to hope for a Messiah.
That Messiah was announced to a young Galilean woman named Mary, when an angel told her she was to bear the Christ. She courageously responded with, “Let it be,” and it was so.
Mary and her fiancé, Joseph, traveled to Bethlehem to participate in the census, and while they were there, Mary gave birth to Jesus. Angels proclaimed his birth to shepherds, who came to visit the newborn Messiah. We read this story and dare to imagine God incarnate: a tiny baby.
Tell the story: Luke 2:1-20
If you have the Shine On story Bible, this passage is part of the story on page 165-166.
Talk about it: Choose a few of these prompts to explore:
- Tell this story, then read it. What did you add to the story, and what did you leave out? As this story has been told in many cultures for thousands of years, it has taken on a life of its own. That’s okay! And it’s also good to go back to the story in the Bible.
- Shepherds often appear as a positive character or \ image in Scripture. God is often depicted as a shepherd as well (perhaps most well-known in Psalm 23). Shepherd is a royal image, believe it or not, an incredible juxtaposition of earthy and kingly! How does this knowledge change your reading of the story?
- This is the first of three times that Luke’s gospel says Mary “treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.” What do you think that means?
- Go outside when it’s dark. Imagine the world around you suddenly filled with angels, singing and proclaiming!
- This is an earthy story. It includes animals and common people and a woman in labor and a newborn with all its needs. Imagine the things you would see, hear and smell in this place where Jesus was born. Sometimes we try to sanitize the story, but doing that takes away from the beauty of God “incarnate,” which means “embodied in flesh”!
Imagination Station: How did this story prompt you to imagine and create?
Daily worship ritual
- Light two purple candles, then the pink candle, the last purple candle and the center candle, then say something like, “Jesus brings God’s hopeful goodness! Jesus brings God’s peaceful embrace! Jesus brings God’s joyful song! Jesus is God’s loving face! Jesus is God incarnate!” If you want to keep it simpler, say, “Jesus is born! Jesus brings hope. Jesus brings peace. Jesus brings joy. Jesus brings love.”
- Read part or all of Luke 2:1-20; or read one of the other lectionary Scriptures.
- “Imagine the Journey:” Put Jesus in the manger and bring the shepherds to see him!
- Prayer: God, you are hope, peace, joy and love. In Jesus, you revealed all these things to us in all their fullness. Make us bold enough to imagine the miracle of Jesus’ birth. Amen.
- Blow out the candles.
- Sing a song about Jesus’ birth.
Visit MC USA’s Faith Formation page to find a one-stop hub of formation resources for all ages, curated through an Anabaptist lens.