This is a three-week bible study program. Enjoy and relax. Celebrate the birth of Christ. Fall in love again!
WEEK ONE: BIBLE STUDY OVERVIEW
Insights on The Joy of Birth (NIV Luke 2:8-19)
Background for the Group Leader: In this passage from Luke, we experience new life as we celebrate the birth of the Christ Child, a birth like no other on earth.
As group leader, you will begin the discussion by raising the questions below, inviting them to share their thoughts and feelings. You do NOT have to use all the questions. These are suggested questions and you may skip any that may not seem appropriate for the group. Do not insist that they talk. Let them pass if they choose not to speak. For some, they will want to take the whole time to talk about their reflections. Ask them to limit their comments to two or three sentences and remind them that they can share more in small groups after the activity is over. If you notice that an individual is deeply saddened by what he/she is saying, you may want to offer him/her the opportunity to share more with a social worker, a family member or friend. This is not a time for therapy. It is a time to experience spiritual wellness by recognizing the positive and painful moments in life and affirming the individual’s experiences.
Directions for participants:
Week 1: You will review terms used, listen to the passage and follow your guide’s suggestions as you view the art associated with it. At the end, you may want to share your thoughts based on the guide’s questions.
Week 2: You will read the same passage together and discuss the questions, delving more into its message.
Week 3: You will read the closing reflection, listen to the song associated with it and together answer the final discussion questions.
WEEK ONE – ART FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION
Insights on The Joy of Birth (NIV Luke 2:8-19)
NOTE FOR GROUP LEADER: While allowing the group to view the image of God handing the world to his children, the group leader will read or use the audio recording of the passage (Luke: 2:8-19 NIV). In preparation for this reading, the group will discuss and reflect on the terms and historical information provided under “Terms to Understand and Discuss.” After discussing the terms, the group will silently reflect on the image and then the passage will be read while they continue to view it. The artwork will either be projected on a screen or printed out for easier viewing. The passage is printed below for further review, if desired. Follow the steps below:
Step One: Terms to Understand and Discuss:
Messiah: the anointed one, the promised deliverer of the Jewish nation… a term used by the Jews in the Old Testament. The Jews had been waiting for the Messiah, the anointed one, since the fall of Adam and Eve when the Lord God promised them a Savior, a Messiah. In Genesis 3:15, God says: “I will send a Redeemer who will be ‘her seed’ (NJV) ‘- the seed of the woman.’” This promise is repeated often in the Old Testament.
During the period of Roman rule (at the time of the birth of Christ), the Jews’ expectation for a liberator of the Jewish nation from foreign bondage (or messiah) became prominent.
Other similar terms: the savior, the Christ (used as a title for the Messiah).
Angel: a spiritual being who acts as a messenger from God. This being is also often considered a protector or guide. Angels appear often in both the Old and New Testaments. The Bible refers to angels who bring relief to mankind by fighting alongside Jesus Christ to eliminate wickedness (2 Thessalonians 1:6-8) and also refers to “the wicked spirit forces” and “the angels who sinned.” (Ephesians 6:12; 2 Peter 2:4).
Bethlehem: the birthplace of Jesus Christ, our savior. The Old Testament and the passage you heard also suggests that this was the hometown of King David, the young shepherd boy who, armed with a sling, but empowered by God, slew the giant Goliath who was taunting the Hebrews. David’s triumph marked Israel’s first victory and demonstrated his courage and the fact that he was worthy to become Israel’s next king.
Some seven hundred years before the birth of Christ, the prophet Micah in the Old Testament (Micah 5), foretold that the Messiah would come from the small town of Bethlehem. “But you, O Bethlehem …only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel will come from you, … And he will stand to lead his flock with the LORD’s strength, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. Then his people will live there undisturbed, for he will be highly honored around the world. And he will be the source of peace… (Micah 5:2–5, NLT)”
Mary: a Jewish woman from Nazareth who is the virgin mother of Jesus Christ. She is believed to be born around 16-18 B.C. and died sometime after 33 A.D. Some in the Christian churches question whether Mary actually died, saying that her body fell asleep and that she was assumed into heaven both body and soul. This is called her Assumption into heaven.
Joseph: a Jewish man from Nazareth who is the husband of Mary and the foster-father of Jesus. It is believed that he was born around 30 B.C and died around 20 A.D.
Incarnation: the appearance of a god or spirit in an earthly form; the union of divine and human natures in Jesus Christ (Merriam-Webster.com). The word “incarnation” does not appear in the Bible, but the concept refers to the Gospel of John 1:14 (NIV) which says, “and the Word was became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” It comes from the Latin version of the Bible (the Vulgate) which says: “Et Verbum caro factum est et habitavit in nobis.” (Literally, this means: and the Word was made beloved/dear and lived among us.”)
Step Two: Art for Reflection (Items needed: Artwork)
Group leader begins by saying: In this activity we will reflect on an image of the shepherds receiving the Good News of the birth of the Christ Child. The passage you will hear builds to this moment. Consider the impact of this message. Who is in the scene? What is happening? What does this image say to you? Try to put yourself into the image. Where are you? Reflect on the feelings and experience of each person in the photo. What would your feelings and experiences be in this circumstance? I will give you three minutes to reflect. (Group Leader gives the group about three minutes of silence for the group to consider and meditate on the visual impact of the art. At the end of the silent reflection, go to Step Three.)
Read the passage or turn on the recording of the passage:
Step Three: (Items needed: Artwork, Passage from (NIV Luke 2:8-19) printed below and questions for discussion and reflection.)
Group leader now says: “I will read (or play) the passage from Luke 2:8-19 (NIV). While you listen to the passage continue to reflect on the artwork.” After the reading, the group can discuss and reflect on any or all of the following questions.
- Describe the scene. Who is there? What is happening?
- Put yourself in the scene. Where are you? What are you doing? What are you thinking?
- What is the message? What is the implication of the message for those hearing it? For you?
- What do you suppose the shepherds are feeling? Why?
- How would you feel if a messenger from God, an angel, were to appear to you?
- How would you feel if a messenger from God, an angel, were to appear to you and say, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.”?
- What do you suppose your conversation would be after the angels leave?
- What would your reaction be once you see the Baby Jesus? What would you do and remember after leaving the little family?
- How believable is this story for you?
- What other thoughts do you have about this image?
NOTE TO GROUP LEADER: At the end of the session, you may want to allow the group to have a few moments for open discussion and what the session may have meant for them.
Reading Passage: Week One
Luke 2:8-19 (NIV)
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. (NIV Luke 2:8-19)