The Christmas story is one familiar to us all; whether it’s the story of the shepherds being summoned to the manger, the genealogy of Jesus (the endless list of begats), or John’s “in the beginning was the Word…”, each story introduces an aspect of Jesus’ life that is important to our Christmas experience.
by Jen Schlameuss-Perry
For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests.
As we await the blessed hope, the appearance of the glory of our great God and savior Jesus Christ
“For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.”
You can read the full text of this Sunday’s readings here:
Depending on what Mass you go this this Christmas, you will hear a different Gospel story about the birth of Jesus. The first Mass you could attend (4:00 pm or later) gives the rundown on Jesus’ family tree, on Josephs’ side. Luke’s Gospel is told during the nighttime Mass (Midnight Mass) and is the one that’s probably easiest to follow. It’s the story of how Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem for the census and there was no room for them to stay except a stable (which actually may have been a cave, not a stable the way we think of them), surrounded by animals, and angels calling the shepherds to come and be God’s first guests along with the heavenly host. If you go on Christmas Day you’ll hear John’s beautiful expression of God’s eternal plan for our salvation through Jesus, The Word, coming to “pitch his tent among us.”
God is so big and we are so small. Each of these stories shines a light on something we need to know about God revealed to us in the person of Jesus. We learn from Matthew that, like the rest of us, Jesus was born into a human family who loved him and who’s history he became a part of. It is proof that God’s promise to send the Messiah through the line of David has been completed. We learn from Luke that God chose the most humble beginning possible and invited the most humble first guests possible to welcome him into the world. God came for the poor, the marginalized, the overlooked and invited them to one of the most important events in human history. They were the guest of God and angels, and it’s each of our job to be Jesus to others and to make them our guests, too. John’s Gospel shows us Jesus’ Presence in the Trinity from the beginning; God’s plan to bring light into our darkness and to live side-by-side with us so that we could know God and allow ourselves to become more shaped in his image.
What is your favorite part of the Christmas story? What do you think it would be like to meet Jesus when he was a baby?
In John’s Gospel when it says “made his dwelling among us”, the literal translation is “pitched his tent among us.” It makes reference to the fact that our homes here are temporary and sometimes somewhat uncertain. Everything about the birth stories of Jesus was uncertain and a bit rough. Why do you think God chose those circumstances to introduce himself to us? How do you relate to a God who knows what it’s like to struggle? What does that phrase “pitched his tent among us” mean to you?
The older we get, the more our family history means to us. While sitting through the genealogy of Jesus can be somewhat boring and might seem irrelevant, it really does have a lot of interesting stuff in it. Many of the folks in there have pretty cool stories in the Bible. Try looking some of them up on your Christmas break. Share what the stories of your own family that have been passed down have meant to you.
A little lectio
The ancient practice of prayerfully reflecting on bits of Scripture is known as lectio divina. Want to try it out with your family? Head over to Lectio Divina for Kids to find out how to adapt this prayer practice for your kids.
A little Bible study
Want to do a little Bible study with your kids? Here are some tips:
- During Ordinary Time, the Church pairs the Old Testament and New Testament readings in a way that each sheds light on the other. Ask your kids to look for the common theme connecting the two readings. (Sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes it is subtle.) How does the “dialogue” between the readings help you understand them better?
- Get a New American Bible, Revised Edition, and take a look at the footnotes for these readings. How do they change your understanding of what is going on?
- Take a look at the context for the readings—what happens before, or after?
- Read the NABRE’s introduction to the book of the Bible that the readings are taken from. How does that help you understand the readings?
- If you don’t have a copy of the NABRE at home, you can view it online at the USCCB website at the Daily Readings web page. (The link will take you to today’s reading; click forward or backward on the dates to get to Sunday’s readings.)
For even more resources for breaking open this Sunday’s readings, head over to The Sunday Website.
The image for Breaking Open the Word at Home is taken from a 17th century illuminated manuscript by an anonymous (but very talented) artist. The text is from the beginning of the Book of Sirach, chapter 1, verses 1-12, which begins: “All wisdom is from the Lord and remains with him forever.”