Fr. Daniel M. Ruff, S.J. – Pastor
Old St. Joseph’s Church, Philadelphia
Christmas Vigil (Children) – 12/24/09 – 4:00 p.m.
Fr. Dan: So… what day is tomorrow?
Fr. Dan: Do you like Christmas?
Fr. Dan: Why?
Children: Presents, Santa, family…
Fr. Dan: Do you have any favorite Christmas stories?
Fr. Dan: What are they?
Children: Rudolph, Frosty…
Fr. Dan: But we heard the most important Christmas story just a few minutes ago. What was it?
Children: The birth of Jesus!
Fr. Dan: In the Bible, we actually have TWO friends of Jesus who tell the story of his birth. They are Matthew and Luke. Did anyone catch whose story we read tonight?
Fr. Dan: I think the story is important enough to read again – this time with pictures. Okay? (Fr. Dan reads from a picture book and shows the pictures…)
The Story of the First Christmas:
Mary and Joseph lived in Nazareth. They were both very good young people. They loved each other and they were planning to get married. One day when Mary was alone, an angel named Gabriel came to visit her. She was very surprised to be visited by an angel, and even more surprised when he told her she would have a baby whose father would be the Holy Spirit. Mary was a little scared, but she told Gabriel to tell God, “Okay.”
Fr. Dan: Do you think it would be scary to be visited by an angel? Was it hard for Mary to say okay to what God wanted? Is that hard for us sometimes?
Joseph was really surprised when he heard that Mary was going to have a baby. They had not talked about having a baby; and Joseph was sad to hear that he would not be the baby’s father. He didn’t know what to think when Mary said that the Holy Spirit was the father. He wondered if he should marry Mary.
Fr. Dan: Joseph didn’t see the angel or talk to him like Mary did. Do you think it was hard for Joseph to believe Mary, even though he loved her? Do you ever have trouble believing people you love?
Then one night while Joseph was sleeping, an angel – maybe it was Gabriel – came to him in a dream. The angel told Joseph that what Mary said was true – that the Holy Spirit was the father of Mary’s baby. The angel told Joseph to marry Mary, and to name the baby “Jesus” because he would be the savior of the world. The name “Jesus” means “God saves.”
Fr. Dan: What do you think it was like for Joseph to hear that Mary’s baby would be the savior of the world? Would you like to have a name that means “God saves”? Maybe you know someone who is named “Jesus.” A lot of Spanish-speaking people are named “Jesús.” Also, do you know anyone called “Joshua”? That is a variation of the same name.
When Joseph woke up, he believed the angel and trusted that Mary’s baby would be the Son of God. Joseph was excited about the chance to take care of Jesus and to be his human father. So he married Mary, just as they had planned.
When it came time for Jesus to be born, Mary and Joseph were traveling. They were staying in a stable in Bethlehem; and that was where Mary had her baby boy. Mary and Joseph named the baby “Jesus,” just as they had promised the angel.
Fr. Dan: This part of the story comes from Jesus’ friend, Luke; so we didn’t hear that part from the Bible tonight. Why were Joseph and Mary in Bethlehem? Why were they staying in a stable?
Jesus our brother, kind and good • Was humbly born in a stable rude • And the friendly beasts around Him stood • Jesus our brother, kind and good.
Fr. Dan: Do you like animals? The verses I am reading now are from a Christmas song called “the Friendly Beasts.” Remember, the animals in the stable were actually there when Jesus was born – so they were among the first to actually see the baby Jesus!
“I,” said the donkey, shaggy and brown, • “I carried His mother up hill and down; • I carried her safely to Bethlehem town.” • “I,” said the donkey, shaggy and brown.
Fr. Dan: What was the donkey’s gift to Jesus?
“I,” said the cow, all white and red • “I gave Him my manger for a bed; • I gave Him my hay to pillow His head.” • “I,” said the cow, all white and red.
Fr. Dan: What was the cow’s gift to Jesus? Would you give your dresser drawer for a bed for Jesus, and let him use your favorite tee shirt for a pillow?
“I,” said the sheep with curly horn, • “I gave Him my wool for His blanket warm; • He wore my coat on Christmas morn.” • “I,” said the sheep with curly horn.
Fr. Dan: What was the sheep’s gift to Jesus? Would you give up your coat or your sweater to keep a new baby warm? Wouldn’t you get cold yourself? Would you still give the coat or sweater to the baby? Do you think there are babies born today who don’t have warm clothes and a warm place to stay?
“I,” said the dove from the rafters high, • “Cooed Him to sleep that He should not cry; • We cooed Him to sleep, my mate and I.” • “I,” said the dove from the rafters high.
Fr. Dan: What was the gift of the dove to Jesus? Have you ever sung a baby to sleep?
“I,” said the camel, yellow and black, • “Over the desert, upon my back, • I brought Him a gift in the Wise Men’s pack.” • “I,” said the camel, yellow and black.
Fr. Dan: What was the gift of the camel to Jesus? Have you ever helped your mom or dad or brother or sister carry groceries or firewood or trash? Do you think Jesus likes it when you help others to carry heavy loads?
Thus every beast by some good spell • In the stable dark was glad to tell • Of the gift he gave Emmanuel, • The gift he gave Emmanuel.
Jesus, he came to save us, too; • All boys and girls, like me, like you. • On this, his birth, we come to pray; • What gift will you give him today?
Fr. Dan: Can you think of a birthday/Christmas gift that you can give to Jesus? Do you think Jesus understands that the gift is for him when we do it for someone else we love, or for someone who is poor and needy like the baby Jesus and his parents were? Do you think Jesus wants the grown-ups here to give him birthday/Christmas gifts as well?
©2009 Fr. Daniel M. Ruff, S.J.