Advent Theme (December 3—December 25): God’s Presence Brings Life
The proximity of the fourth Sunday of Advent to Christmas (Eve and Day) this year provides both headaches and opportunities. I’m sure you’ve moved through the headaches that this brings. However, there are opportunities here, whether you have three services in two days, or just one. Our Advent 4 passage (John 1:1-18) and Christmas Eve/Day reading (Luke 2:1-20) could hardly be different in style and tone. But, they both tell the story of the birth of the Messiah, the Word made flesh.
The Word Made Flesh: Advent 4
The Narrative Lectionary is designed to move through the stories of the Hebrew Bible through the third Sunday of Advent. On the fourth Sunday of Advent, the lectionary moves into our Gospel for the year, in our case: John. The Gospel of John differs from the other three Gospels. It begins strongly asserting that the Logos was divine and this Logos became Jesus, the Word made flesh.
John spends very little time on the details on what it means for the Word to be made flesh. But, encountering this passage in the season of Advent, we turn to Luke for the answer to that question.
The Word Made Flesh: Christmas
If someone knows the story of the birth of Jesus, then what they know comes from the Gospel of Luke (with the wise men from Matthew). It is practically church law that we read some segment of Luke 2:1-20 on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. So, the Narrative Lectionary includes this story every year, no matter which Gospel that year focusses on.
This year, we can boldly make the connection between John 1 and Luke 2. The baby born of Mary and laid in a feed-trough is the divine Word made flesh. The Nativity is not just a well-loved story told once a year, it is the world-changing event of the incarnation. The one true God, whom the people of Israel (mostly) worshipped, the organizing principle of the universe of the Greek philosophers, became a human being. We make the claim that Jesus is God so often it becomes part of the background. As faith formation leaders, it is our work to find unique ways to communicate this message.
What Can You Do?
If you are having both an Advent 4 service and a Christmas Eve service, and keeping the assigned NL readings, then you will cover each of these passages at their own time. Due to the difference, we have two free resources for you. For John 1, we have a simple, quiet activity, “The Light Comes into the World,” focusing on Jesus as the Light of the World using a battery-powered candles. This activity comes from our Living the Word: Kids (PK-2nd) curriculum. For Luke 2, we have a suggestion on how to make an impromptu “Nativity Play” for all ages, from our Living the Word: Cross+Gen Worship resource.
If you don’t have both services, then bring up John 1 in your teaching and preaching of the traditional nativity story. Tell the story in a new way, combining the two Gospels. Focus on the vivid details, capturing the interest of those who have “heard it all before.”
For more great ideas on how to engage participants of all ages in the story of God’s love, check out our Living the Word series for elementary students, youth, adults, and intergenerational settings!
-Gregory Rawn (Publisher)
Image Copyright: halfpoint / 123RF Stock Photo