Today’s reading was about Mary, the Theotokos (God-bearer). This followed nicely on the heels of yesterday’s sermon, which was also about her. We focused on the message the angel brought her (Luke 1:26-56), and her reaction to it, and I also read the words to the Magnificat. The reading from the Jesse Tree book did require a little off-the-cuff editing, as it got a little too Catholic for me, referring to Mary as “our mother in heaven,” but other than that, I think it was a nice explanation of the life of our Savior’s mother.
This was the one reading that I wish I could have left out, (and if Advent hadn’t been the maximum number of days it can be this year, it would have been the first to go!). The reading focused on Anne and Joachim, who, according to tradition, were the parents of Mary. Now, I have no problem with learning about Mary’s parents, and how God used them to raise her in the knowledge of Scripture, but there are still some problems with having them as part of the Jesse Tree. First, we don’t know what their names really were. We also didn’t actually have a Bible reading about them, as they don’t actually appear in the Bible. All we had to go by was a brief paragraph in our Jesse Tree book, and some ad-libbing on my part, which seems kind of contrary to the rest of the Jesse Tree activities. So, I get why they were included, (and I am grateful for the parents they were to Mary!), but I still don’t think they were the best choice.
As a follow-up to yesterday’s reading about Zechariah and Elizabeth, today we read about their son, John the Baptist (Matthew 3:1-12). We covered a lot of information, from prior to his birth through Jesus’s baptism. The children’s (and my!) favorite part of the reading, though, was when John jumped in Elizabeth’s womb at the presence of Christ in Mary’s womb. It’s such a small part of the passage, but so very cool, seeing the Holy Spirit work even in an unborn child. What a conversation Elizabeth and Mary must have had!
Today’s reading was about the parents of the final prophet before the Messiah, (John the Baptist)–Zechariah and Elizabeth (Luke 1:5-25). We talked about how they had given up on having any children, given their ages, and then were surprised by the angel Gabriel’s visit to Zechariah in the temple. I love a chance to talk about angels with my children, especially the part where they routinely introduce themselves by saying, “Do not be afraid.” I know that if an angel came to me, even that admonishment would not be enough to keep the fear out of my heart! As He did with Abraham and Sarah, God proved that even advanced age is no challenge to Him when He has a task He wants accomplished!
Today’s reading was about Jonah, who seems a rather unlikely prophet. He had a bad attitude, he ran away from God, and he whined. A lot. But it’s stories like these that remind us that God can use any one of us, flaws and all, to accomplish His purposes. The bulk of our reading focused on the well-known whale portion of the story, but I spent some extra time on chapter four, partly because it’s my favorite part of the story, (haven’t we all sounded like Jonah at one time or another, dramatically proclaiming that “we’re so angry that we could die?”), and partly because it really shows God’s mercy to the people of Nineveh, (and their livestock!), especially when He speaks to Jonah in verse 11:
“And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”
Today’s reading was about Daniel (Daniel 6:10-23), who remained faithful to God, even knowing what price could be asked for his faithfulness. I have always liked the story of “Daniel in the Lion’s Den,” mainly because I really like King Darius’s reaction to realizing that Daniel must be fed to the lions:
“May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!” Daniel 6:16b
It’s quite a statement of faith from a pagan king, that he recognizes God’s power. And in the end, he is not disappointed, because Daniel’s God does, of course, save him, which results in an even greater statement of faith from the king at the end of chapter six, in which he calls God, “the living God,” and testifies to His power.
Today’s readings were from the prophet with, arguably, the most recognizable Christmas prophecies–Isaiah (Isaiah 2:4; 7:14; 9:2-7). We read several of those passages, including the familiar ones from chapters seven and nine. The children were mystified by the ornament at first, and even I had to think about it for a bit before I realized that it’s supposed to depict the weapons being turned into tools as depicted in Isaiah 2:4.