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Now and Then

Comparing two mothers

by Alexandra Palmer

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)

Aims

To consider the story of the Nativity from Mary’s perspective and to highlight the differences between Mary, the mother of Jesus, and modern-day mothers.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need to prearrange with a female member of staff or parent to prepare answers from a modern-day mother’s perspective to the questions in bold in the Assembly.

  • You will also need ten children to read out the questions in bold in the Assembly.

Assembly

  1. Reader 1: How did you feel when you first found out that you were having a baby?

    The female member of staff or parent should give her answer.

    Mary’s answer:
    We don’t actually know what Mary was doing when she found out that she was to have God’s son, but what we do know from the Bible is that when Mary saw the angel Gabriel, she was troubled. This was partly because it was unusual to see angels, but also because it meant that God was going to use her for something special. So, to begin with, she wasn’t excited about having a baby because she felt worried. It was only when she visited her cousin, Elizabeth, that she really started to celebrate her pregnancy.

  2. Reader 2: How did your partner feel when they found out that you were going to have a baby?

    The female member of staff or parent should give her answer.

    Mary’s answer:
    It says in the Bible that Joseph wasn’t happy when he found out that Mary was going to have a baby. In fact, he was very upset and he didn’t want to continue with his engagement to Mary. Then, one night, he had a dream in which an angel told him who the baby was and what to call him. After this dream, Joseph felt happy and excited, and married Mary.

  3. Reader 3: What did you do in the last month before you had your baby?

    The female member of staff or parent should give her answer.

    Mary’s answer: Joseph had to go to Bethlehem to be counted by the Romans for their census, so Mary couldn’t rest and relax like most women try to do today before they have a baby. Instead, she travelled on the back of a donkey from Nazareth to Bethlehem while she was heavily pregnant.

  4. Reader 4: Where did you have your baby?

    The female member of staff or parent should give her answer.

    Mary’s answer: Mary didn’t go anywhere near a hospital. Instead, she gave birth to Jesus in a stable, surrounded by animals, and without a doctor present. She gave birth in a stable because all of the inns around Bethlehem were full due to the census. Instead of sleeping in a cot, Jesus had to sleep in a manger, which is a large container used for animal food.

  5. Reader 5: How did you choose your baby’s name?

    The female member of staff or parent should give her answer.

    Mary’s answer:
    One of the reasons that an angel visited Joseph in a dream was to tell him the name of their baby. The angel told Joseph to call the baby Jesus, which means ‘saviour’, because he would save people from the things that they do wrong.

  6. Reader 6: What sorts of hopes and dreams did you have for your baby?

    The female member of staff or parent should give her answer.

    Mary’s answer:
    I’m sure that Mary and Joseph would have wanted Jesus to stay healthy and be a happy baby and child. However, they also knew that Jesus was God’s son, so they would have wanted him to grow up and do God’s work.

  7. Reader 7: Who were your first visitors?

    The female member of staff or parent should give her answer.

    Mary’s answer:
    Mary had two sets of visitors. First, the shepherds arrived to see baby Jesus. They were followed by the three wise men, who are also known as the three kings. At the time when Jesus was born, shepherds were considered to be the lowest of the low because they were poorly paid, dirty and smelly. The fact that the shepherds were the first visitors to see baby Jesus was God’s way of showing that Jesus had come to earth for everyone, not just the rich.

  8. Reader 8: What sort of presents was your baby given?

    The female member of staff or parent should give her answer.

    Mary’s answer:
    Jesus received what we would consider some quite unusual presents for a baby. It’s possible that the shepherds brought him a lamb. The wise men gave Jesus gold, frankincense and myrrh. Gold was a sign of Jesus being a king; frankincense was used in worship, so this meant that Jesus was going to be worshipped all over the world; and myrrh was a perfume that was used when people died, which meant that Jesus was going to have a special death.

  9. Reader 9: Was there anybody who didn’t like your baby?

    The female member of staff or parent should give her answer.

    Mary’s answer:
    King Herod ruled over Bethlehem. He was very jealous when he heard that another king had been born, so he didn’t like Jesus and wanted to hurt him.

  10. Reader 10: What did you do in the first couple of months after having your baby?

    The female member of staff or parent should give her answer.

    Mary’s answer:
    Mary couldn’t take Jesus home to Nazareth because King Herod wanted to hurt him. So, Mary, Joseph and Jesus had another long journey on a donkey and escaped to Egypt. They stayed in Egypt until King Herod died. After that, they were able to return to Nazareth.

Time for reflection

Ask the children to think about how they feel when they see a baby.

Listen to a range of responses.

Point out that most people like babies. People often pull faces at them to try to make them smile, and they often love to hold babies and give them a cuddle. Babies are not threatening and they don’t try to take all the attention for themselves: they are small, fragile and vulnerable.

Christians believe that this is one of the reasons why Jesus came to earth as a baby. God couldn’t make himself any bigger to attract our attention, so instead, he sent his son as a baby to draw us closer to him.

Prayer
Dear God,
Thank you for all of the people who looked after us when we were born.
Thank you for Mary, who gave birth to baby Jesus, and thank you for Joseph, who looked after both of them.
We pray that this Christmas Day will be a special time of celebration with our families and friends.
We pray that you will help us to remember the reason why we celebrate Christmas.
Amen.

Song/music

Away in a manger, available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AnwO_0DrpCk (1.59 minutes long)

Publication date: December 2018   (Vol.20 No.12)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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