worship
A large part of what it means to worship something is to express reverence and appreciation for what you worship. In this lesson we have many examples of how Jesus worshiped his Father, how angels expressed reverence for Christ and his mission, how Mary and Joseph humbly obeyed God in some very difficult ways, and how regular people, like you and like me, demonstrated worshipful attitudes they had learned from angels, from the scriptures, and their own communications with the Spirit. As you read about the birth of Jesus, think of ways you can demonstrate humility and a worshipful attitude in your own life for God’s only begotten Son.

Day 1

Luke 2:1–7 – Jesus Christ was born in humble circumstances.

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. If you read through all of today’s material before doing your journaling, the questions asked in this day’s material might give you more to write about.

I’m not trying to be trite or too casual for a sacred subject here, but I think we should try to focus on whose birth this is we are talking about. This is the very man who created the universe that swirls around us. Jesus created the earth on which we live out our mortal lives, and that will someday be the home to those who become celestialized. He is the son of God, a God himself. But in what capacity did he come to earth? Was it to rule, reign, and be sovereign? No, he came to earth to be submissive to the will of his Father as the servant of all.

In his capacity as Redeemer, it was his responsibility to demonstrate for us in all ways possible what it means to submit to the Father. He was born in very lowly, humble circumstances, with no earthly fanfare, in a stable, surrounded by animals instead of servants. Even the angels who shouted and glorified his birth did so out in the country to only a handful of shepherds who were guarding their sheep.  His parents, though of royal lineage, were poor, and could offer their newborn babe no better accommodations than an animal stall for his entry into mortality.

Our Savior’s birth is reflective of the rest of his mortal life. In all things he was submissive, meek, and obedient. Despite his grand and exalted status as the Son of God, he would grow to allow himself to be spat upon, slapped, scourged, and crucified. During mortality he was to be as one of us, subject to the whims and brutality of others. In the three years of his earthly ministry he was homeless, relying on the kindness of others to sleep and eat. He had powers beyond anyone’s comprehension, yet he chose not to use them to elevate himself or make life comfortable for himself. Until he had finished the work for which he had come to earth, Jesus would be the lamb led to the slaughter, who opened not his mouth. He had to prove himself in mortality just like the rest of us, despite his divine capabilities. And the big point here, is that, unlike us, he knew exactly who he was. He knew he was the Son of God, and that he possessed the power over the elements, and even over life and death. He was not ignorant of his own parentage and potential. Jesus knew that all it would take was a single statement and a legion of angels would be at his beck and call. Yet he subdued his divinity, and reined in his own powers for our sakes, and for the sake of his own obedience to God.

Think of the lines from the hymn Jesus, Once of Humble Birth. I have bolded the lines that describe his earthly experiences. Read all that is in bold face first then go back and read them in context with the rest of the hymn. I think it will change your experience with the words of this hymn.

Jesus, once of humble birth,
Now in glory comes to earth.
Once he suffered grief and pain;
Now he comes on earth to reign.
Now he comes on earth to reign.

Once a meek and lowly Lamb,
Now the Lord, the great I Am.
Once upon the cross he bowed;
Now his chariot is the cloud.
Now his chariot is the cloud.

Once he groaned in blood and tears;
Now in glory he appears.
Once rejected by his own,
Now their King he shall be known.
Now their King he shall be known.

Once forsaken, left alone,
Now exalted to a throne.
Once all things he meekly bore,
But he now will bear no more.
But he now will bear no more.

Text: Parley P. Pratt, 1807–1857

Music: Giacomo Meyerbeer, 1791–1864, adapted

Why do you think Jesus, as great as he was, was required to be introduced into mortality in such humble circumstances?

If Joseph and Mary had found a comfortable room in one of the inns in Bethlehem, do you think that would have changed our perspective about the Savior’s birth?

What comforts might have been available to those who stayed in an inn that were not afforded to those in an animal stall?

We often think of his manger as being full of fresh, sweet hay, but there is no indication that by the Spring of the year, when he was born, there would have been any fresh hay available. It likely was stale, and possibly moldy at this time of the year, because all that was left to them was last year’s hay that had been in storage for many months. What difference might there be in our view of the Savior if he came into the world boasting of any kind of luxury at all?

Day 2

Luke 2:8–38, Matthew 2:1–12 – There are many witnesses of the birth of Christ.

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. If you read through all of today’s material before doing your journaling, the questions asked in this day’s material might give you more to write about.

Shepherds

In Luke 2:9 the shepherds were tending their flocks at night. This verse describes what happens to them.

9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

As you watch the videos that are available with this lesson, note that each one of them has been filmed in such a way as to demonstrated the most profound respect for the story. This means that the terror of the shepherds at having an angelic visitor come to them is only hinted at. The verse says they were “sore afraid.” The videos hardly demonstrate that level of emotional reaction. So as you play that scene in your own mind, consider how these simple shepherds might have reacted to an angelic visitation in the dead of night out in the fields where they had no real protection from danger. It is almost a certainty that this was the first time any of them had seen an angel, let alone a multitude of the heavenly host praising God.

We don’t know if the host of heavenly messengers were in the air or on the ground around the angel who delivered the message about the Savior. The scriptures say only that “suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God.” If you have ever been to a temple dedication and experienced a spirited Hosanna shout, this might be the closest earthly equivalent. Either way, in the air or on the ground, their presence alone would have been impressive to these simple shepherds. Small wonder the shepherds were so anxious to get into town to find this baby. After the shepherds found the family in the stable, as they were told by the angel, they went and spread the word abroad to tell everyone what they had witnessed.

As others see what happens in the life of Jesus notice what Mary does, time and time again. She ponders these things in her heart (verse 19). Mary appears to have been one to seek for the higher knowledge, which is what happens when we ponder over spiritual things.

Simeon and Anna

I always thought Simeon was a high priest or something, but evidently Simeon and Anna were just two worthies who frequented the temple and exercised great faith in the prophecies of the Messiah who was to come. The Holy Ghost had told Simeon that he would not die until he had laid eyes on the promised Messiah. From his comments to the Savior’s parents Simeon had given this child and his role in everyone’s lives a lot of thought. The same is true of Anna. She had been a widow for 84 years, which would have made her at least 103 years of age, almost unheard of in those days.

These two people were just righteous individuals who kept the commandments and focused on the blessings of the Temple. They held no special priesthood office or social status that we know of. They were just like you and me, covenant makers and covenant keepers who looked for the coming of their Messiah. There were precious few truly righteous people in Israel in Jesus’ day, but they did exist.

The wise men

We know nothing of these men, except what is given us about them in the scriptures. What is notable about their appearance is that since the day of Adam it was foretold that there would be signs and wonders in the heavens surrounding the birth of the Savior of the world. These men are the witness that others, besides those in the house of Israel, were aware of, and watching for, these signs.

They saw and recognized the promised signs and came from faraway countries to find this special child who had been born. By the time they finally arrived, the family was living in a house, because the scriptures say they came into the house to find the child and his mother, Mary. They fell down and worshiped the child then presented their kingly gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Herod

I will add one more name to those who were concerned about the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, Herod the Great. He was appointed to govern Jerusalem to keep the Jews in line. Herod carved out his kingdom by killing anyone he suspected of even possibly opposing him, including several of his own sons. He was afraid of any threat to his rule. He was not a Jew, and the Jews hated him. The Jews would be much more likely follow one of their own kind, especially if they considered him to be anointed by God.

Historically, the anointing of a monarch during their coronation by a respected religious leader is a sign of divine approval. By having the Church anoint the new ruler it shows that God approves and sustains the reign of the new king or queen. In verse 2 of Matthew 2 the Joseph Smith Translation (JST) indicates that the wise men came seeking him whom God had anointed, the Messiah (which means the anointed one). To Herod this would be worse than the wise men just coming and asking who the rightful king of the Jews was.

Here is a little historical note about Herod. King Herod was a ruthless man. This is the same man who, realizing he was about to die, ordered all the notable Jews in the kingdom to be crowded into the hippodrome at Jericho then ordered that they all be killed upon the announcement of his death. He wanted to make sure that if the people didn’t mourn his own death they would still be in mourning anyway. Fortunately, at the time of Herod’s death, his wife countermanded the order in time to save the people. This paranoia about maintaining his own power is what made the babe in the manger a double threat to Herod. This is why Herod killed all the male children under the age of two throughout the area surrounding Bethlehem. He wanted to make sure he killed the right child, so he killed all the male children.

This impending slaughter of the innocents is why Joseph was warned by an angel to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt. When Herod died the angel told Joseph he could go back to Israel. But when Joseph discovered the Herod’s son ruled in his father’s place, instead of going to Jerusalem he went to Nazareth instead. Each event fulfilled an ancient prophecy of the life of Jesus.

Today we studied about a wide array of people concerned about the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, from angels to a despot on the throne. Of those who were happy about the birth of Jesus, what do you think each person was happy about?

Why do you think the Lord gave Mary and Joseph so many witnesses of their son’s special nature?

Why do you think the apostles Matthew and Luke included these witnesses in their accounts of the Christ child?

What point were they trying to make, or what do you think they were trying to accomplish by mentioning these witnesses?

What witnesses do we have of the divinity of our Savior?

Where do these witnesses come from?

Day 3

Matthew 2:13–23 – Parents can receive revelation to protect their families.

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. If you read through all of today’s material before doing your journaling, the questions asked in this day’s material might give you more to write about.

This collection of verses accomplishes two main tasks. Firstly, they continue the story about Herod wanting to kill the threat to his throne, and then show how the Lord saved the family by sending them to Egypt until Herod’s death. Secondly, they demonstrate how each step along the way prophecies about Christ were being fulfilled. Remember that Matthew is writing to a Jewish audience, and one of his intents is to show them how Jesus fulfills all the prophecies they had in their scriptures about the coming Messiah, or anointed one.

Mary trusted in the worthiness of her husband to do what was needed to protect her and their baby. Joseph kept himself worthy so when the inspiration and revelation came to him he listened and obeyed, and thus kept his family safe from harm. We won’t normally receive angels in our dreams, but we all have the gift of the Holy Ghost, and need to be prepared to listen for the answers to our prayers. We also need to be practicing following the promptings we receive so when the Holy Ghost intervenes in our lives with instructions we are ready to follow his counsel to keep our families safe.

Have you ever had an experience when the Spirit prompted you to do something to protect your family or one of your children?

If you haven’t had that experience yourself, try asking someone you trust if they have ever had that experience. Some will have had dramatic experiences with this, while others may have to stop and think about it for a while before something comes to mind. Many parents have had promptings for their spouse and children that helped or saved them from harm. This is something we can, and should, expect to happen as we stay close to the Spirit and try to protect our loved ones.

Day 4

Luke 2:40–52 – Even as a youth, Jesus was focused on doing His Father’s will.

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. If you read through all of today’s material before doing your journaling, the questions asked in this day’s material might give you more to write about.

Background

This passage talks about the yearly visit the family made to Jerusalem for the Passover. They went as an extended family. All the children were raised together by all the aunts and uncles. They caravaned as a large, extended family to Jerusalem. The children played freely with their cousins, and spent whole days out of sight of their parents. This was normal behavior. So when the scriptures tell us that the family was returning from the Passover trip and were a whole day’s journey away from Jerusalem before Joseph and Mary discovered Jesus was not in the group, it is understandable. I’m just glad to know they were careful enough that they periodically checked up on where their children were. By now Jesus would have had several siblings. He was 12 years old, and was just a year away of his bar mitzvah, which would allow him to partake as a contributing member in public worship in the synagogue.

Jesus in the Temple

Note that the King James version of the Bible (KJV) says that Jesus and the teachers in the Temple were having a give and take discussion, but the Joseph Smith Translation (JST) of verse Luke 2:46 says that they were only listening to Jesus and asking him questions.

KJV
46 
And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.

JST
46 And it came to pass, after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, and they were hearing him, and asking him questions.

The scriptures teach us that Jesus never needed to be taught anything by man. He was too advanced for anyone to teach him anything. So he, as a twelve year old boy had sat for at least two days and taught the most learned scholars in Israel about their own religion (well, technically it was his religion since he gave it to them as Jehovah).

Even as a youth Jesus was focused on doing His Father’s will

Talk about a precocious child! As young as he was his understanding of his place in the universe far outpaced the knowledge of his parents. Yes, he submitted himself to the will of his parents, but his knowledge of all things so far outstripped theirs that his submission was not done out of need to be taught, but out of respect for who they were. His loyalty was already completely focused on the will of the Father in all things. This is why he stayed in the temple teaching the scholars for multiple days while his family left and returned home. He evidently had no real concern about his own personal safety or needs, for he was focused on doing the will of His Father. This is one example when his parents didn’t fully understand what he was talking about when they finally found him and asked him why he had treated them as he had. In Luke 2:49 his answer was:

… How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?

In other words, ‘Aren’t you aware that this is more important? This is why I am here (on earth) to do my Father’s will.’ With these ideas in hand, hopefully it will make it easier to answer the questions the manual gives at the end of this section about how the youth of today can be about our Father’s business.

The youth of today don’t have the same calling as the Savior, but all of us have the responsibility to be preparing ourselves and others for the second coming of our Lord. Many of the youth take this responsibility seriously.

How can we help the youth of the Church recognize and accept their responsibility to prepare the world for the second coming of Christ?

Do we have any responsibilities that need to be taken seriously for this same event?

How can we set an example for the youth of the Church in this regard?

Because of when we are living in mortality many of us have been told in our patriarchal blessings that part of our responsibilities in this life is to help prepare people for the second coming of the Savior, or some variant of that goal. What is our Father’s business? What is his work and his glory? (Moses 1:39) How does family history work, indexing, and temple work fit in the Lord’s work to prepare his children for the second coming of Christ? How do these things help us personally prepare ourselves for the Millennium?

How does personal or family scripture study, ministering, and active participation in Church meetings and activities help us prepare ourselves and others to fulfill God’s work in the last days? How do seeking to be peace makers, humbly submitting ourselves to God’s will, and repenting of our sins help us further God’s work among his children? Notice that all these things that will help move the Lord’s work along and save souls in the last days require changes in our hearts and minds. All these changes help us become closer to being a Zionlike people, a people prepared to receive the Savior when he comes again.

Just a note about Joseph and Mary: When we read about their puzzlement or confusion over the behavior of their oldest child, remember that we are reading the story in hindsight. We already know the end of the story. They did not. There had not been a prophet in Israel in 300-400 years. There was no one with the spiritual insight around to help them understand the magnitude of who they were raising. There had never been a Messiah before. They only had the teachings of men to go on to interpret what it meant to be raising the Redeemer of the world. Small wonder Mary was confused and didn’t understand Jesus when he pointed out that he had to be about his Father’s business. The Jews thought their Messiah was supposed to be a military leader, not a spiritual Savior. So in her mind, what did Jesus sitting in the temple have to do with the military deliverance of the Jews from their oppressors?

Day 5

Improving personal study

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. This is a “resource” day. As you study about many of the resources available to us to help us learn how to understand the scriptures, what impressions come into your mind? Be sure to write them down so you can refer to them later.

When it comes to studying the New Testament, I can’t think of anything that has a greater power to change how you view the Savior than the Joseph Smith Translation (JST) of the Bible. Many of the verses have only one or two word changes in them, and so are at the bottom of the page where that verse appears. But some of the changes are whole passages, so they are in the back of your bible right before the maps.

As you read the verses each day, look at the bottom of your page and search for any verses that have a JST mark in front of them. Note which verses they are then compare what the King James version (KJV) says with what the JST version of the same passage says. I promise that your view of the Bible, and especially of Jesus, as a person, will radically change by the time you have finished the New Testament. He is much more compassionate and clear in what he says, teaches, and does in the JST version. I am so thankful for Joseph Smith’s inspired translation!

Here are some articles I have written over the last few years that can help you learn how to, or teach your children how to get more out of studying the scriptures.

Ideas for family study and home evening

I will give just one recommendation for this week’s family home evening lesson. Read Luke 2:52 and Matthew 2:23. The third footnote of verse 23 refers you to JST Matthew 3: 24–26 (page 784 in your Bible). This is where we learn that Jesus was so far advanced beyond all those around him, that no one could teach him anything. It also indicates that he willingly submitted himself to be taught and governed by his parents while he waited patiently for his ministry to begin. In Israel, one could not become a preacher until you were 30 years of age. That is a long wait.

Here is a PDF of this week’s study material.
Print it out for greater convenience in your studies.

New Testament Lesson 03