Mary and Joseph Birth Narrative

Workshop Leaders’ Bible Study

This workshop leader’s Bible study is a historical, theological, and contextual introduction to the  Advent – Mary and Joseph Birth Narrative rotation of Kirk of Kildaire’s Faith Quest workshop rotation program.  It is intended to provide workshop leaders with:

·        A historical context for understanding the Bible story.

·        A Biblical context for reading and teaching the story.

·        The theological basis for the concepts to be taught to the children.

In Kirk of Kildaire’s Faith Quest program, workshop leaders attend a one-hour Bible study two weeks prior to the start of a new rotation.  This Bible study helps workshop leaders understand how the concepts to be taught to the children are derived from the Bible story and how the lessons in the rotation fit together to reinforce the concepts.  It also provides an opportunity for the workshop leaders to grow in their own faith and understanding of the Bible.

It will be helpful to have a chalkboard, whiteboard, or flip chart for writing down questions or observations during the Bible study.

Note:  This is not a comprehensive study of the text, but only a few notes to help provide context and background for workshop leaders.  Consult titles cited in the reference list at the end of these notes for more information.



            Luke 1:26-38 and 2: 1-7

Memory verse for this rotation:

            “A child has been born for us.  We have been given a son who will be our ruler.  His names will be wonderful Advisor and Mighty God, Eternal Father and Prince of Peace.”  Isaiah 9:6 (CEV).


·       Nothing is impossible for God.

·       God brings new hope into the world through Jesus.

·       Jesus came into the world to fulfill God’s plan.

·       Doing God’s work is a blessing.

·       The Holy Spirit gives us the power to do God’s work.

Prayer Concerns & Prayer

·        If workshop leaders do not know each other, give them an opportunity to introduce each other and say which workshop they will be leading.

·        Begin the Bible study by praying for God’s guidance as teachers begin a new rotation.

Reading the text

Ask a workshop leader to read the text aloud.  Since this rotation focuses on an entire chapter, you might want to divide the reading among three or four workshop leaders.

Ask the workshop leaders what questions came to mind as they heard the story or read it before the Bible study.  Write down any questions that arise and will need to be answered during the Bible study.


Historical, Theological, and Biblical Contexts

Background on Luke

            Luke is one of the Four Gospels.  The book itself does not identify the author but tradition traces authorship of both Luke and Acts to a physician who was a friend of Paul’s (Culpepper, 4).  Luke was probably a Gentile who knew Greek well and was quite familiar with the OT and Jewish practices (Culpepper, 9).  The writing of the Gospel is dated to the mid-eighties AD.



            Luke’s gospel is similar in form to ancient biographies.  It contains seven main sections as indicated below (Culpepper, 10).


Luke 1:1-4                   The Prologue

Luke 1:5-2:52              The Infancy Narrative

Luke 3:1-4:13              Preparation for the Ministry of Jesus

Luke 4:14-9:50     The Ministry in Galilee

Luke 9:51-19:27   The Journey to Jerusalem

Luke 19:28-21:38   The Ministry in Jerusalem

Luke 22:1-24:53   The Passion and Resurrection Narratives


Christological Emphases: Jesus’ many titles in Luke

“The Lukan Jesus is compassionate, a friend to outcasts.  Luke also relates Jesus to the history of Israel, the Scriptures, contemporary world history, and the unfolding of God’s redemptive purposes in human history.  Jesus is the Savior sent to seek and to save the lost” (Culpepper, 4).  Some of the many titles used for Jesus in Luke are:

  1. Son of God: Occurs six times.  Luke uses this title “indirectly to define Jesus’ relationship to God as Son to the Father, while treating it as a mystery known to the spiritual beings (Gabriel, the devil, and the demons) and a scandal to his adversaries” (Culpepper, 14).
  2. Prophet – One Greater Than the Prophets:  Jesus fulfills Moses and others but is greater.  This identity is tied to his relationship with John (Culpepper, 15).
  3. Lord: Occurs 103 times in Luke (Culpepper, 16).  This title “subtly infuses the Gospel with the church’s post-Easter confession of the risen Lord.  Luke affirms the confession of Jesus as Lord.  Even from his birth, Jesus is the Lord who would rise from the dead” (Culpepper, 17).
  4. Messiah or Christ:  similar to Son of God – Jesus’ identity as Messiah is treated by Luke as “privileged knowledge” that “is known to the narrator, the reader, and the angels and demons, but not to the other characters” (Culpepper, 17).  It means “the anointed one” or “the Christ” (Culpepper, 17).
  5. Son of Man:  occurs 25 times and with one exception “the term occurs only on the lips of Jesus in Luke” (Culpepper, 18).  Used when describing Jesus’ earthly ministry, in predicting his suffering and death, and in referring to his future coming in glory (Culpepper, 18).
  6. Savior:  Although significant to Luke, “the title occurs only twice in the Gospel, both times in the infancy narrative” however, “Jesus is repeatedly identified as God’s salvation or as the one who saves: (Culpepper, 19).



  1. God’s Redemptive Purposes:  “Luke sets the life of Jesus both in its historical context and in a theological context.  All that happens in the Gospel and in Acts is ultimately a part of God’s redemptive plan for the salvation of all humanity”  (Culpepper, 20).  Three related emphases are the sovereignty of God, the fulfillment of Scripture, and the scope of Jesus’ redemptive work (Culpepper, 20).
  2. Salvation for All Alike:  More than in any other gospel, in Luke Jesus makes it clear that salvation is for all people.  He reaches out to and includes the most outcast in society:  sinners, Samaritans, tax collectors, and women (Culpepper 21-22).  This inclusiveness challenges the established religious and societal order in a scandalous way.
  3. The Blessings of Poverty and the Dangers of Wealth:  “Luke refers to the poor and the rich more than does any other Gospel” (Culpepper, 25).  Jesus turns upside down the idea that the rich are blessed by God and maintains instead that God will “lift up the poor and cast out the rich” (Culpepper, 25).  In his version of the beatitudes Luke does not spiritualize them as Matthew does but “faces the economic realities of poverty” (Culpepper, 25).
  4. Table Fellowship:  In Luke, Jesus is often found eating with others (often outcasts) – “the meals in Luke become a ‘type scene’” repeated frequently with some differences (Culpepper, 26).  The connection of these meals to the celebration of the Lord’s Supper is then easily made.  “The Table becomes the place where disputes over greatness are set aside and divisive barriers are overturned by means of voluntary servanthood (22:24-27)” (Culpepper, 26).  Jesus is present with us as risen Lord when we break bread together as a community (Culpepper, 26).
  5. The Role of a Disciple:  Jesus is our model for discipleship.  How we understand who Jesus the Christ is will determine how we understand who we should be as disciples.  In the Lukan narrative, Jesus is obedient to God in all things.  “He is empowered by the Spirit, he is compassionate toward the poor and oppressed, he heals and forgives, he prays, an he dies a model martyr’s death” (Culpepper, 27).
  6. The Importance of an Accurate Witness:  In the NT, the idea of witness is developed from meaning “an eyewitness, to one who can testify to the gospel, to one who dies for the sake of the gospel.”  Luke’s use of the term witness links the first two meanings (Culpepper, 30).  In Luke it is clear that the disciples as witnesses are “guided and empowered by the Spirit” (Culpepper, 30).  “The Gospel of Luke plays an important role in shaping the biblical doctrine of the Spirit in that it affirms that the Holy Spirit was active before the birth of Jesus, the Spirit rested upon Jesus during his ministry, and Jesus charged the disciples to wait in Jerusalem until the Spirit had come upon them” (Culpepper, 30).


Luke 1:26-38 and 2:1-7



            According to Culpepper, Luke’s infancy narrative is different from others “in that it constructs parallels and contrasts between the births and roles of John the Baptist and Jesus” (11).  We also can see right away Luke’s concern for the ordinary, poor, downtrodden and outcast people in the world.  “God chose the lowly rather than the high and mighty to fulfill the plan of redemption” (Culpepper, 52).  We can see this choice in the people of Zechariah, Elizabeth, John, Mary, Joseph, and  Jesus and in the way that God entered the world – as a helpless infant born to unwed parents in a stable in a relatively insignificant small town.  As a matter of fact it is scandalous that God would even enter life as a human at all and yet the scandal is a sign of hope for us (Culpepper, 52-53, 67).



How are the Gospel’s themes played out in these particular passages?

  1. God’s Redemptive Purposes:  The annunciation shows that God’s purposes are being fulfilled through Gabriel, Mary, and Joseph.
  2. Salvation for All Alike:  Jesus’ inclusion of the oppressed and outcast is seen from the beginning.  Luke emphasizes the roles of the women Mary and Elizabeth alongside the men.  In Matthew Joseph is the main character but here Mary is (Culpepper, 23-24).
  3. The Blessings of Poverty and the Dangers of Wealth:  We see this in the poor circumstances of Jesus’ birth.  He is born in a stable to ordinary parents.  The first to hear of the birth are shepherds watching their flocks.
  4. Table Fellowship:
  5. The Role of a Disciple:  Mary’s example of obedience
  6. The Importance of an Accurate Witness:  The role of the Holy Spirit is vital from the very beginning (Culpepper, 30).


Workshop Summaries

Ask each workshop leader to summarize his or her workshop.  As they do so, point out the concepts that each lesson reinforces.  Ask workshop leaders if they have any questions about the logistics or practical application of their lesson.


·       In Creation Station the children will review all the concepts while creating a banner that will commemorate Jesus’ birth and the events that affected Mary and Joseph.

Nothing is impossible for God.

God brings new hope into the world through Jesus.

·       In Good News the children will learn that Jesus brings hope and that we can also find hope in seeing God’s plans fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

·       In Apostles’ Playhouse the children will act out Jesus’ birth and talk about how it affected Mary, Joseph and the shepherds.

·       In Bread of Life Café the children will learn about what Jesus’ name means and will celebrate the hope he brings by baking angel cookies.

Jesus came into the world to fulfill God’s plan.

·       In Good News the children will learn about many of the prophecies made concerning Jesus and will discover that Jesus’ birth was part of God’s plan from the beginning.

·       In Apostles’ Playhouse the children will act out the story of Jesus’ birth.

·       In Bread of Life Café the children will learn about Gabriel’s message to Mary and her faithful response while baking angel cookies.

·       After watching Charlie Brown’s Christmas in Holywood, the children will learn about the true meaning of Christmas as Charlie Brown did.

Doing God’s work is a blessing.

·       In Antioch Arcade the children will learn about how even when the task seems difficult, it is a blessing to be called by God to do God’s work.

·       In Holywood, the children will think of no-cost ways to do God’s work.

The Holy Spirit gives us the power to do God’s work.

·       In Antioch Arcade the children will learn that the Holy Spirit helped Mary and will help them when they are called to do God’s work.

·       While thinking of no-cost ways to serve God in Holywood, the children will learn that it is the Holy Spirit that empowers us.

Review Questions

Return to the questions that were gathered at the start of the hour.  Have they been answered?  Are there any further questions about the Bible story or about the lessons?

Closing Prayer

Close the Bible study with a prayer.


Craddock, Fred. “Luke.” Interpretation. James Luther Mays, et al. editors. (Louisville, John Knox Press, 1990). (pp. 1-12, 21-37).

Culpepper, R. Alan. “Luke.” The New Interpreter’s Bible, vol. IX. Leander Keck, et al. editors. (Nashville, Abingdon Press, 1995). (pp.3-37 and 49-67).