Perhaps like you, part of our family Christmas tradition has always been the reading (and in some years the memorization and recitation) of that most loved and well-known portion of Luke 2:1-20. Our family enjoys singing Christmas carols together as well.
As we continue our journey through the Christmas story via selected Christmas carols, let me remind you of “The Cyber Hymnal” should you desire to access it for lyrics or recorded accompaniment.
I. DAY ONE: “While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks”
A. Why would shepherds be the first told?
1. The shepherds’ story is told in Luke 2:8-20. Our Christmas cards picture cherubic shepherd boys holding clean fluffy lambs. In reality, shepherds were dirty, smelly outcasts, people who were at the bottom of the social ladder.
2. Some characteristics of shepherds might help us understand the characteristics God is looking for in us. What do you see in the following verses: Matthew 18:3-4; Luke 1:51-53; Mark 2:17; I Corinthians 1:26-31?
3. These shepherds were caring for sheep and lambs which were undoubtedly destined to be sacrifices at the temple in Jerusalem. In what two ways might Jesus particularly relate to them? (See John 1:29; John 10:1.)
B. What was the response of the shepherds?
1. Verses Luke 2:15-16 record the first part of their response. What does a person miss if they hear the story of the “good news” but neglect to investigate it for themselves?
2. Verse Luke 2:17 records the second part of their response. A “witness” might be defined as someone who tells what they know. That is what the shepherds did, no more and no less.
3. The angels had the privilege of announcing the birth, but God’s choice was that humans share the good news with other humans. How does II Corinthians 5:14-21 describe this privilege?
4. In Luke 2:18, what responses are recorded to the shepherds’ news?
II. DAY TWO: “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus”
A. What was the significance of Simeon’s response?
1. Luke 2:21-24 describes the two occasions Jesus was brought to the temple in Jerusalem (about 5 miles from Bethlehem) after his birth. The first was on his 8th day, and the second on his 40th day. Mary and Joseph were careful to keep the Law of Moses, and the description of their offering shows they were poor people.
2. How does verse 25 describe Simeon? Could that description fit you and me? (Whereas Simeon was waiting for Messiah’s first coming, we are waiting for His second coming!)
3. When have you experienced the Holy Spirit changing your plans to move you to go to a place or a person for a “divine appointment”? Did you go grumbling or trusting?
4. Read Simeon’s words in verses 28-35. From verses 30-32, for whom was God’s salvation prepared?
5. How has verse 34 been fulfilled? (Luke 20:17-19; I Corinthians 1:22-25; I Peter 2:4-10)
6. How was verse 35 fulfilled? (John 19:31-37)
7. How is this prophecy of verse 35 expanded and explained in Isaiah 52:13-53:12?
B. How was Anna’s faith rewarded?
1. Contemplate what a life of worship might look like today.
2. How would deep study of Scripture, intentional prayer, and an attitude of trust and worship combine to make Anna (or you and me) someone God could entrust with the privilege of verse 37?
III. DAY THREE: “O Holy Night”
A. What was the star?
1. Matthew 2:1-2, 7, 9-10 describes a unique star. To what or whom did the Magi attribute this star?
2. Many have speculated on what that star was and when it might have appeared. One appealing explanation is that of the conjunction of Jupiter first with the star Regulus, and nine months later with Venus in 3-2 BC.1
3. Another explanation is that this was not a physical star, but rather the Shechinah glory of God.2
4. What do the following scriptures say about stars (which could be understood as stars, planets, constellations, etc., but not the sun and moon): Genesis 1:14; Psalm 19:1-4a?
5. Stars could also be metaphors for people in exalted positions. (Numbers 24:17; 2 Peter 1:19; Revelation 22:16)
6. In what way are you and I like stars? (Daniel 12:3; Philippians 2:15-16)
B. Why would all creation rejoice along with us at the birth of Jesus? Look up:
1. Genesis 3:17-18
2. Romans 8:18-22
3. II Peter 3:10-13
4. Revelation 21:1; 22:1-3
IV. DAY FOUR: “As With Gladness Men of Old”
A. Why did the Wisemen follow the star?
1. The Magi were those people among the Medes, Persians and Babylonians who were priests and wise men, skilled in secret learning. There were five classes of Magi which included those skilled in expounding sacred writings, interpreters of signs, magicians, diviners, and astrologists. In his day, Daniel was the head of the Magi. (Daniel 1:20; 2:48; 4:9; 5:11-12)
2. In Daniel 9:25, God gave Daniel a prophecy of the timing of the coming of the Messiah. It is logical that this knowledge was transmitted to those under him in the school of prophets in Babylon, along with the prophecy of Numbers 24:17.
3. What does the fact that God would communicate the knowledge of the birth of His son in this way to these presumably Gentile astrologers say to you?
B. When did they arrive?
1. Compare Luke 2:7 with Matthew 2:1-18. Did the Magi arrive at the same time as the shepherds? How old do you think Jesus was when the Magi arrived?
2. How many wise men do you think there were? Does the number of gifts mentioned require that only that number of people offered them?
3. Christmas cards give a subtle twisting of truth. Do you take your theology from popular cards and carols or from Scripture?
C. What was their response?
1. In what two ways did the Magi express their worship? Are both of those ways true of you?
2. The gifts of the wise men were costly – in time, money and pride. How do my gifts compare?
3. Could their obedience in Matthew 2:12 also be evidence of true worship?
V. DAY FIVE: “Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne”
A. Why do I need Christmas?
1. This carol personalizes Christmas. Jesus didn’t just come for the shepherds, the Maji, Simeon or Anna; He came for you and me.
2. Refer back to Lesson 1, Day One for the reason you and I also need Him.
3. Knowing that His first coming would include suffering and death, why did he come? (John 3:16; Romans 5:8; I Peter 3:18)
4. Why hasn’t He returned yet? (II Peter 3:9)
B. How will I respond?
1. Regardless of the external trappings – or lack thereof this year; regardless of whether this is a joyful or a stressful season for you, will you personally bow and worship the Christ of Christmas, and make Him not only the center of your celebration but also of your heart?
2. What gift might He want you to bring Him this year? A humble spirit? Unconditional trust? Joyful service to a needy person? Loving sharing of the reason for Christmas with someone who doesn’t understand?
May this Christmas be the richest ever as you and I bow and worship Him with humble, trusting, hearts of thankfulness and love, and then rise up to share His love with those around us.
1. With which person who met the infant Jesus do you most identify? Why?
2. Thoughtfully read through the words of “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” Then sing them with understanding. Follow by singing “Joy to the World.”
3. Pray about sharing the meaning of Christmas through these and other carols. Perhaps this could be incorporated into the fun of an old-fashioned carol sing (complete with Christmas cookies!) where carols are explained and then sung.
Bonus for fun:
Some people believe that “The Twelve Days of Christmas” was used as a clandestine way to teach doctrine to young children in centuries past (1558-1829). However, www.Snopes.com claims this is false. It is fun to imagine what might be being taught if this were true. See if you can find what each of the “coded phrases” might stand for:
1 Partridge in a Pear Tree
2 Turtle Doves
3 French Hens
4 Calling Birds
5 Golden Rings
6 Geese A-laying
7 Swans A-swimming
8 Maids A-milking
9 Ladies Dancing
10 Lords A-leaping
11 Pipers Piping
12 Drummers Drumming
Answers: 1 – Jesus Christ; 2 – Old and New Testaments; 3 – Faith, Hope and Charity (the Theological Virtues); 4 – the Gospels; 5 – the Pentateuch; 6 – Six Days of Creation; 7 – Seven gifts of the Holy Spirit/ seven sacraments; 8 – Beatitudes; 9 – Fruits of the Holy Spirit; 10 – The Ten Commandments; 11 – The Eleven Faithful Apostles; 12 – The Twelve Points of Doctrine in the Apostles’ Creed.
1. http://www.bethlehemstar.net/ gives a fascinating, though lengthy, explanation for this hypothesis.
2. Arnold Fruchtenbaum, Messianic Christology (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 1998) 143-144.
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