This session is the second in a series designed to prepare for Christmas through four sessions in advent, looking at the story from different perspectives, through the medium of poetry, using a selection of poems from 100 Best Christmas Poems for Children, edited by Roger McGough. It is intended to be used by all-age homegroups, those who meet intergenerationally with members from babes in arms to great grandparents included in the mix. The activities and discussion points are designed to include all members, as they feel able.
Each session looks at the events of the first Christmas, through the lens of one of the key characters in the story. This second session looks at Joseph, and how he responded to the calling God had on his life.
Where possible, begin the time together with a shared meal, or if this is not possible, some light refreshments. Use this time to introduce an all-age atmosphere, by gathering all members together in a shared time of food and friendship. As you continue this advent study, talk about what people are looking forward to about Christmas, and how they are getting ready. Have they remembered to light their advent spiral or ring created in week one?
Introduce the book, 100 Best Christmas Poems for Christmas. You may like to provide copies of the book for families to enjoy more of the poems at home, as you work through this series. Talk about the way that the Biblical narrative tells us about the events that happened, but only gives us a glimpse of how people may have felt as they played their part in the story. Remind the group how this story has inspired many artists, storytellers, musicians and poets to imagine further details of what may have happened and how people may have felt.
Explain that today, we are looking at the story from Joseph’s perspective and read poem 29, Joseph.
Remind the group of how we looked at the story of Mary last week and what we discovered about her. Encourage the members of the group to have access to their own Bibles. Then read the passage together.
18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about[a]: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet[b] did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,[c] because he will save his people from their sins.”
22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”[d] (which means “God with us”).
24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
Provide a story basket with a nativity scene that children can play with, and some nativity story books.
Invite the group to discuss some of the following questions as are most appropriate. Be intentional about including all ages in this time of discussion, so far as you are able, rather than expecting the children to listen quietly while the adults talk. Allow the conversation to flow naturally, rather than rigidly following the questions below. Alternatively, you may prefer to set up the response activity and encourage participants to discuss these questions as you complete the activity.
Talk about the way that Joseph had a decision to make about what he would do, when he heard Mary’s news. Like Mary, he chose to be obedient and put his trust in God. God had chosen Joseph to father Jesus here on earth, and to be with Mary and support her. Talk about the way that God has formed our families, just as He formed Mary and Joseph’s family and he cares about us, whatever shape or form we may take.
Invite the families to bring along some family photos to this session. Provide blank photo frames for families to decorate together for their family portrait, or some albums which they can fill together, taking time to enjoy their family memories and to talk about what it means that God has formed our families.
Some groups enjoy a time of shared sung praise together, whilst for others this is not helpful. Treat this time as optional, depending upon the needs of your group. For younger children, this can be a great time for joining together with the adults in praise, perhaps using percussion instruments, scarves or ribbons as you sing. Through this advent season, you may like to invite members of the group to choose their favourite advent or Christmas carols.
Invite members of the group to think about some of the choices they have to make at this time and encourage them to share these, perhaps together as a group or in individual families. Take the opportunity to pray for one another, for God’s guidance in these situations and for confidence to trust God through the process.
Take home idea Encourage the families to take some time to enjoy preparing for Christmas together this week, perhaps involving extended family in their celebrations, purposefully creating space to be a family together. If you have given each family a copy of the book, 100 best Christmas poems for Children, encourage them to take some time to enjoy some of these together this week.