Key Passage: John 1:14 “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father.”

Big Picture Question: Where was Jesus born? Jesus was born in Bethlehem as God promised.

Christ Connection: Jesus was born! This was very good news! Jesus was not like other babies. He is God’s Son. God sent Jesus to earth from heaven. Jesus came into the world to save people from their sins. Jesus came to be their King.

Dear Parents,

Thank you for continuing this journey of The Gospel Project® for Kids. Last unit, kids learned about God’s plan for John the Baptist, the forerunner of the Savior. Over the next six weeks, kids will learn that God’s plan of redemption is Jesus. Today’s Bible story is about Jesus’ birth. The story of Jesus’ birth is usually told in December, although we do not truly know Jesus’ actual birth date. Sometimes the story of Jesus’ birth gets lost in the shuffle of Christmas lists, familiar carols, and trips to Grandma’s house. This time, though, we can focus on the details of God’s plan to send Jesus to save mankind from sin.

The first Christmas did not take place on a special holiday. In fact, the only real news at that time was that Caesar Augustus had demanded a census to collect more tax revenues. Because of the census, Bethlehem was packed. Joseph—a descendant of King David—and his pregnant wife could not find a place to stay. Mary desperately needed a place to stay—the Savior was ready to be born! An innkeeper let the couple stay in a stable, and Mary gave birth to the King of kings and placed Him in a feeding trough.

Not far from Bethlehem, shepherds were watching their sheep at night. Little did they know, the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world was resting in a manger nearby. When the angel appeared, they were terrified! Thankfully the angel gave the best news: the Messiah was born. They could find Him in Bethlehem. (See Luke 2:10-11.) They hurried to find the Savior, just as the angel had told them. After they found Baby Jesus, they returned home, praising God and telling others about Jesus.

The Bible says Mary wondered about all of these things and treasured them in her heart. Do you think the shepherds may have done the same? The birth of Jesus was good news! Jesus was not an ordinary baby. He is God’s Son, sent to earth from heaven. Jesus came into the world to save people from their sins and to be their King.

Family Activity: Encourage each family member to cut out a good news headline from a newspaper or magazine and past or tape them below. Invite each family member to share something good that happened that day. Talk about why Jesus’ birth was very good news.

Dear FPC—
It is Advent! That is a countercultural practice that I invite you to join in.   In our world everything seems to conspire to keep us busy, frazzled, rushing.  That is maybe most pronounced at Christmastime.  The parties, the shopping, the decorating, the cards, the eating, the obligations—it can feel overwhelming!  Or maybe you are feeling loss especially keenly right now—a loved one, a relationship, physical abilities –absences can loom large this time of year.  Frazzled, depressed, sad, distracted—whatever you are feeling, I invite you to practice Advent and give yourself a break!
As we mentioned on Sunday, Advent is really a time of pausing and preparing to notice how God is with us.  It is the opposite of being so busy you can’t even think or so down you can’t get up. We included an Advent devotional in the bulletin on Sunday, I hope it is a nice pause for you.  You can pick up new ones each Sunday during Advent.  I also want to share two resources you can explore this Advent season.
First is a prayer retreat from our friends at Pray As You Go.  These are Jesuits in Britain who offer a wonderful 10 minute/day time of reflection on Scripture.  I really love this resource.  They have a special Advent retreat, which you can find here.  (if you want to check out their daily prayer, go to https://pray-as-you-go.org/ or open their app).
Second, the Advent devotional from www.thecommonrule.org/advent-devotionals-page is wonderful– just 4 simple habits to work on this month:  punctuate your day with prayer (kneeling if possible) 3 times (morning/noon/night); no phone before scripture; light a candle; and no phone while waiting (use times of waiting to interact with people!).  Check it out and see what you think.  The prayers can be very short—just a sentence or two, the idea is to remind yourself of God’s presence with you, right now.  You can also access their Advent devotional pdf here.
Don’t make yourself busy doing Advent, but do give yourself a break and stop to be with Jesus for a few minutes.  Blessings on you this week!  See you Sunday when we light the Peace Candle!

Pastor Steve

Key Passage: Luke 1:76 “And child, you will be called a prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare His ways.”

Big Picture Question: Why was John the Baptist special? John the Baptist told people about Jesus.

Christ Connection: Long ago, God’s prophets said, One day Jesus will come.” Finally, a prophet named John said, “Jesus is almost here!” John the Baptist told people to get ready for Jesus. He said Jesus was coming to be King over the whole world.

Dear Parents,

Thank you for continuing this journey of The Gospel Project® for Kids. Today’s Bible story is about John’s birth. Shortly after Mary left Elizabeth and returned home, the time came for Elizabeth to give birth to her baby. For the duration of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, her husband, Zechariah, had been mute. His inability to speak was punishment for his doubting the angel who foretold John’s birth. (See Luke 1:20.)

Elizabeth gave birth to a son, and her friends and family rejoiced with her—just as the angel Gabriel had said. (See Luke 1:14.) Everyone had assumed the baby would be named after his father, but Zechariah was clear: HIS NAME IS JOHN.

In Luke 1:66, the people wondered, “What then will this child become?” John would grow up to be an evangelist. He would be spiritually strong. John’s ministry would be brief, but through the power of the Holy Spirit, he would lead thousands to repentance. He would humbly prepare the way of the Lord with this aim: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). John would gain thousands of followers and then joyfully hand them over to Jesus as the groom’s friend who rejoices at the groom’s voice. (See John 3:29.) Then John would go to prison and ultimately be beheaded by King Herod. But Jesus Himself would say, “Among those born of women no one is greater than John” (Luke 7:28).

As you teach kids the story of John’s birth, talk about how John’s birth was prophesied by Isaiah. (Isaiah 40:3) A long time before Jesus was born, prophets said that Jesus would come. The prophets also said another man would come first to say, “Jesus is almost here!” John the Baptist told people to turn away from their sins because Jesus was coming to be King over the whole world.

Family Activity: Give each family member a brightly colored index card and a pencil or pen. Help them find Luke 1:76-77 in the Bible and copy the verses onto their index cards. Based on the verses, list some of the plans God had for John’s life. Let each family member choose a special place to display his or her card. Challenge your family to memorize these verses this week.

Dear FPC—
Happy Thanksgiving! I love Thanksgiving because it is about gratitude and family and seems less commercialized that many other holidays. Oh, and food! Did I mention the food? 😊
Seriously though, looking for the blessings you have in life and choosing the be grateful for them is a very healthy practice. We can be content or unhappy in all circumstances, it is up to how we respond. This morning the men’s breakfast was talking about “glass half full faith” as opposed to “glass half empty faith.” I encourage you to walk towards your loving Savior and enjoy a glass half full life (maybe you’ll even notice that it 3.4s full—or even full to overflowing!) Just open yourself up to the ways God is blessing you and say thank you!
Don’t forget about our special Thanksgiving Eve service, Wednesday at 7 pm. This is a great way to get into an attitude of gratitude.
This Thanksgiving take a few minutes to stop and pray and give thanks for the blessings in your life. I’ll be thanking God for you!
Gratefully,

Pastor Steve

Key Passage: Luke 1:76 “And child, you will be called a prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare His ways.”

Big Picture Question: Why did Elizabeth’s baby leap in her belly? Elizabeth’s baby was happy because of Jesus.

Christ Connection: God kept His promise to send a Savior. This was good news! Before Jesus was born, people sang songs and thanked God for His Son. Mary and Elizabeth worshiped God because of Jesus.

Dear Parents,

Thank you for continuing this journey of The Gospel Project® for Kids. Today’s Bible story picks up after the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would be the mother of God’s Son, Jesus, although she was a virgin. Gabriel said with God all things are possible. Mary’s relative Elizabeth was also pregnant though Elizabeth was barren and well past childbearing age. Mary hurried to visit Elizabeth to share in the joy of their miraculous pregnancies.

Mary’s arrival brought great joy to both Elizabeth and Elizabeth’s unborn baby. In the presence of the unborn Messiah, John leaped in Elizabeth’s belly. Elizabeth was also filled with the Holy Spirit, and she said, “Mary, you are blessed!”

The story of Mary’s visit with Elizabeth gives us a remarkable picture of women living by faith. Being a young, unwed pregnant woman could have caused Mary to worry. Instead, her response is marked by her trust in God. Mary’s song reflects her knowledge of God’s Word and her understanding of who God is. God kept His promise to Abraham and his descendants. The coming of the promised Savior was good news! Before Jesus was born, people rejoiced and praised God for His Son. Mary and Elizabeth worshiped God because of Jesus.

Family Activity: Read Luke 1:39-56 aloud from the Bible. Talk about how happy Mary and Elizabeth were. If you have photos of your kids when they were babies, show them the photos. Lead them to read Psalm 139:13. Consider donating diapers or other baby items to a pregnancy care ministry or other ministry supported by your church.

Key Passage: Luke 1:76 “And child, you will be called a prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare His ways.”

Big Picture Question: Who announced John’s birth? An angel said that John would be born.

Christ Connection: God gave John a special job: to tell people that His Son, Jesus, was coming! John told the people what God said, and he told them to get ready to meet Jesus.

Dear Parents,

This week in The Gospel Project® for Kids, our journey takes us to the beginning of John the Baptist’s ministry, specifically his birth. John is called the forerunner of the Savior. The term refers to someone who would literally run before a king, heralding his coming. At the end of the Old Testament, God spoke these words to His people: “Look, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome Day of the Lord comes” (Mal. 4:5). Then a period of silence began. For 400 years, God did not speak to the Jewish people as He had done through the prophets.

Luke described Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth, as descendants of Aaron. They both loved God and lived in obedience of His commandments. But they were childless. Elizabeth was barren, and by that time, they were both old. Zechariah the priest was serving in the temple during the reign of Herod the Great when Gabriel, an angel of the Lord, appeared. Gabriel said, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John.”

The name John means “the Lord is gracious.” He certainly is. The foretelling of John’s birth by the angel Gabriel marked the coming of the end of God’s silence. Compare Malachi 4:5-6 to Luke 1:16-17. God had big plans for the baby who wasn’t even born yet. God sent John to be the last prophet who would tell people about the coming Savior. John’s job was to remind the people what God had said in the past and to get the people ready to meet Jesus.

Family Activity: Instruct everyone to remain silent. When you point to a family member, she should shout something that is good news. Then everyone should be silent again. Point to another family member, and allow him to share good news. Explain that God was silent for 400 years before the angel announced John’s birth.

Key Passage: Luke 1:76 “And child, you will be called a prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare His ways.”

Big Picture Question: Who is Jesus? Jesus is God’s Son.

Christ Connection: Jesus came to earth and was born as a baby. Jesus’ parents on earth were Mary and Joseph. Jesus is God’s Son. He came to rescue people from their sins.

Dear Parents,

Thank you for continuing this journey of The Gospel Project® for Kids. Aren’t you excited that we’ve finally reached the New Testament? Four hundred years of God’s silence separated the last book of the Old Testament—Malachi—and the first book of the New Testament—Matthew. Matthew, the first of the four Gospels, begins with Jesus’ genealogy, like a family tree.

The prophecies concerning Jesus’ birth are numerous, and many of them refer to Jesus’ lineage. Old Testament prophecies tell of the promised Messiah being born from the seed of a woman (Gen. 3:15); from the seeds of Abraham (Gen. 22:18), Isaac (Gen. 21:12), and Jacob (Num. 24:17); from the tribe of Judah (Micah 5:2); from the line of Jesse (Isa. 11:1); and from the house of David (Jer. 23:5). The prophecies said He would be born of a virgin (Isa. 7:14) and would be the Son of God (1 Chr. 17:13-14; Ps. 2:7). Jesus fulfilled all of these prophecies.

In Bible times, Jews took great care to accurately record family genealogies. The family a person belonged to was directly linked to property rights. Matthew 1:1-17 and Luke 3:23-38 both chronicle the genealogy of Jesus. The account in Matthew presents Jesus as the king of the Jews—the legal heir to the throne of David. The account in Luke was written to Greek Christians and focuses on Jesus’ descent from Adam.

Jesus came to earth as a baby in Bethlehem. Jesus had earthly parents, Mary and Joseph, but His true Father is God. Jesus was still God the Son when He came to earth, but He also took on the form of a man. Jesus was born to save people from their sins.

Family Activity: Draw a family tree. Invite each family member to draw a picture of him or herself. Let kids draw parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. If available, share family photos or stories about the people in your family tree. Remind kids that Jesus is God’s Son, but He had an earthly family too—Mary and Joseph, David, Abraham,…all the way back to Adam and Eve!