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Being stuck at home because of quarantine doesn't mean you can't learn more about Jesus.  Do the lesson below and let us know if you have questions, or what you think about what you have learned.

Middle School Lesson

November 29, 2020

The Places of Christmas – Week 1
Writer: Carolyn Crowell; Editor: Sue Verner; Project Supervisor: Nick Diliberto; Artwork: Designs by Mattslid; Copyright – Preteen Ministry;
Week One: Nazareth
Bible: Luke 1:26-37; Luke 1:38; Matthew 1:19-24; Colossians 3:12
Bottom Line: We can make a place for mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience to be our response this Christmas.

Hello preteens! Welcome to this exciting season of Christmas! This year, we are going to travel to some of the places where the Christmas story took place. Anyone want to guess the names of some of those places?
The Christmas story happened in more than one location. Each location was a significant part of what God was doing. Through this series I want to encourage you to make a place in your heart where God can do His work just like He did in each place we’re going to visit over these next few weeks.
This week, we are heading to the village of Nazareth. Nazareth was a small Jewish village that was close to the Sea of Galilee.

About two hundred to four hundred people lived there. Many of them were farmers because crops grew easily there. The village had houses above ground while underground there were cisterns for water and places to hold grain. Most of the people in Nazareth were Jewish. This is the place where Mary and Joseph lived. This is also one of the places where the story of Jesus happens.
Nazareth still exists today, and Christmas is a very important time of celebration for the people there. One of their traditions is that rather than giving gifts the way we do at Christmas everyone gets new clothes.  They like to dress their best at Christmas.
New clothes are a big part of Christmas celebrations for the people in Nazareth. Another big part of Christmas celebrations everywhere is singing-especially Christmas carols. Each time we meet during our Christmas series, we’re going to have the chance to do some caroling together/listen to carols.

A long time ago there were two people in the city of Nazareth that were preparing for a big celebration of their own. Mary and Joseph were going to be married. Plans were being made to prepare food and prepare the ceremony that would take place. It was an exciting time! To be engaged meant that their families had arranged ahead of time that they would marry each other and no one else. Our Bibles often use the word “betrothed.” This plan for them to be married would have been set-up for a very long time. It would not have been a surprise to Mary and to Joseph. However, even though there was a plan and everyone knew what to expect, everything changed for them. Mary and Joseph had to make some very big adjustments.
When we’re looking for the Christmas story in our Bibles, we can find it in two different books of the New Testament. The book of Matthew and the book of Luke. Each one tells the story from a different perspective. Both are true but each story gives us some different details.
It’s just like when you and a brother or sister might tell your parents about something that happened. You will each tell the story a bit differently based on what you experienced and what you remembered. You tell the story from your perspective.
Today, we’re going to start in the book of Luke. Two very important announcements happen in the book of Luke. The first announcement is when an angel named Gabriel visits Elizabeth and Zechariah to tell them they are going to have a baby. They are told this baby will be someone who will prepare the way for Jesus. The baby that Gabriel is talking about would be named John. You may have heard of him before because many people call him John the Baptist.
Gabriel also had a second announcement to give to someone. We’re going to read Gabriel’s second big announcement together. Let’s go ahead and look at Luke 1:26-37.

Read: Luke 1:26-37
Wow! Did you catch all that was happening there? Here is Mary, hanging out helping her family in the village of Nazareth. She isn’t married, yet she is being told she is going to have a baby. Not only that, she is told her baby is going to be God’s son. The baby’s father is not Joseph but it is God. That is a very big deal! Think about what Joseph will think when he hears this. Think about what Mary’s family will think when they hear this.
It was a very big deal to find out you were going to have a baby before you were married. It could have meant death for Mary and disgrace for her entire family.
Are you ready now to see what really happened after Gabriel’s big news? Okay, let’s take a look.

Read: Luke 1:38
What was Mary’s response?  Right! At first Mary asked how it could be possible but then she said to God, “Let it be.” Just a few verses later, while visiting her cousin Elizabeth, she sings a song of praise that is recorded in our Bibles. She was willing to do what God had asked and be the person that would give birth to God’s son.

Read:  Matthew 1:19-24
What about Joseph? How did he respond?  Yes! Joseph was afraid. His plan was to quietly break off their engagement so that no shame would come to Mary. Instead, God speaks to Joseph in a dream and tells Joseph that He is doing something big and that Joseph should still marry Mary.
What a huge change in Mary and Joseph’s plans! They had to prepare to look at things differently, and they had to respond differently.
The Christmas season gives us the same opportunity. Sometimes we have these things called expectations. We expect things to go a certain way during Christmas, and we have our plans for celebrating. It could be what we expect to eat, traditions we expect to do, or gifts we expect to receive.
What if, though, we looked at things differently? Mary and Joseph had to change their expectations and their plans when their simple lives in Nazareth changed forever. What if we gave a place in our hearts for something different to happen this Christmas and let go of some of our expectations and plans?
Here’s a verse I’d like us to look at Colossians 3:12.

Read:  Colossians 3:12
Since God chose you to be the holy people He loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.
We learned at the beginning today that the people of Nazareth celebrate Christmas by getting new clothes.

Tenderhearted Mercy
First of all, we’re told to put on tenderhearted mercy. This means showing concern and compassion for others, especially when it comes to extending forgiveness. Sometimes we get disappointed because our adults didn’t give us a gift we wanted or we see someone else get something we wanted to have. This Christmas, we can make a place for forgiveness in our lives. We can change how we respond when those types of situations come up, and we can cut others some slack.

We can also clothe ourselves in kindness. We can be generous to others. Christmas can be a lonely and difficult time for others. We can look for ways to show God’s love by extending friendship and giving others things that we don’t need. People who are kind also encourage others. That means giving someone hope. We pray for them or share a Bible verse or send a message to someone in our lives who may need a little encouragement.

Colossians also tells us to clothe ourselves with humility. This means not just looking out for what we want or think we need, but it means being aware of others and being considerate of what they need. For example, maybe your mother is tired this year and needs extra help getting things ready. Maybe there’s a family tradition that you don’t enjoy but it’s very important to someone else in your family and you need to participate with a good attitude instead of making a big stink about it.

Another one is gentleness. Clothing ourselves with gentleness this Christmas can mean letting others go first. It’s hard when we want to be the first person to rip open our presents or jump into the dessert line, but gentleness waits and says that others are important too.

Finally, we can make a place in our lives for patience this Christmas season. We can clothe ourselves with patience by not letting the little stuff get to us. It’s easy to get irritated by something someone says or a new toy that gets broken or someone logging into our brand new game without asking. Patience means we choose to respond with grace rather than anger.
Mary and Joseph had their plans change rather suddenly and had to choose how they would respond. In a place called Nazareth, they chose to say yes to what God wanted for them. This Christmas we have an opportunity to make a place in our hearts for a new way of doing things. We can respond to others in a way that is pleasing to God.

Here’s the bottom line. We can make a place for mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience to be our response this Christmas.

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