The Journey: Walking the Road to Bethlehem (For Young Adults)

The Journey: Walking the Road to Bethlehem (For Young Adults)

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The Journey: Walking the Road to Bethlehem (For Young Adults) by Adam Hamilton, Jason Gant

It’s a captivating story—one that has been told many times before, but never quite this way.

Popular pastor, author, and speaker Adam Hamilton guides teens on a journey to experience the anxiety and anticipation that Joseph and Mary felt as they prepared for the birth of Jesus. Youth will meet familiar characters, including Elizabeth, Mary’s older relative; the lowly night-shift shepherds who were the first to hear the good news of the Savior’s birth; and many others.

They will spend time in the towns surrounding the Holy Land and will travel with Mary and Joseph on that unforgettable journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, where Jesus was born.

This is a journey that is meant to be shared. Take your first step now.

This five-week resource for youth includes leader helps. You will need one copy for every participant as well as your leader. It also provides resources for incorporating The Journey: DVD with Leader Guide and doing a book study of Adam Hamilton’s The Journey: Walking the Road to Bethlehem.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781426728587
Publisher: Abingdon Press
Publication date: 09/28/2011
Edition description: Youth Edition
Pages: 80
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.30(d)

About the Author

Adam Hamilton is senior pastor of The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, one of the fastest growing, most highly visible churches in the country. The Church Report named Hamilton’s congregation the most influential mainline church in America, and he preached at the National Prayer Service as part of the presidential inauguration festivities in 2013 and was appointed to the President's Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

Hamilton is the best-selling and award-winning author of Creed, Half Truths, The Call, The Journey, The Way, 24 Hours That Changed the World, John, Revival, Not a Silent Night, Enough, When Christians Get It Wrong, and Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White, all published by Abingdon Press. Learn more about Adam Hamilton at

Director of Student Ministries, UM Church of the Resurrection, Leawood, KS

Read an Excerpt

The Journey

Walking the Road to Bethlehem

By Jason Gant

Abingdon Press

Copyright © 2011 Abingdon Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4267-2858-7


Mary's Story

Getting Started

Goals for This Session

— Claim that God is love and desires to share that love to and through each of us.

— Learn and understand what the Annunciation meant for Mary and for each of us today.

— Explore what it means to be called by God.

Words to Know

Annunciation: a divine announcement

Calling: a nudging toward serving God

Confirmation: a rite through which a young person learns the essentials of the Christian faith and has an opportunity to affirm his or her faith and "confirm" his or her baptism


You know that feeling you get when someone important unexpectedly calls you by your name? You find yourself thinking, wondering, even being amazed that the person who called your name knows who you are! I'm not speaking of that girl or guy you've been crushing on since school started. I'm talking about something bigger and more powerful than that "special crush" who may have noticed you. I'm talking about the God of all creation! A moment when the all-powerful, all-loving, all-forgiving, almighty God calls you by name? Imagine both joy and fear, maybe even "jear" — joy with just enough fear to remind you to treat the moment with such respect so as to not mess it up! This is what Mary may have felt during what we refer to in big, fancy, church language as the "Annunciation." God called Mary by name. Wow!

Read the following paraphrase of Luke 1:26-38 from THE MESSAGE:

In the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to the Galilean village of Nazareth to a virgin engaged to be married to a man descended from David. His name was Joseph, and the virgin's name, Mary. Upon entering, Gabriel greeted her:

Good morning!

You're beautiful with God's beauty,

Beautiful inside and out!

God be with you.

She was thoroughly shaken, wondering what was behind a greeting like that. But the angel assured her, "Mary, you have nothing to fear. God has a surprise for you: You will become pregnant and give birth to a son and call his name Jesus.

He will be great,
be called 'Son of the Highest.'
The Lord God will give him
the throne of his father David;
He will rule Jacob's house forever —
no end, ever, to his kingdom."

Mary said to the angel, "But how? I've never slept with a man."

The angel answered,

The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
the power of the Highest hover over you;
Therefore, the child you bring to birth
will be called Holy, Son of God.

"And did you know that your cousin Elizabeth conceived a son, old as she is? Everyone called her barren, and here she is six months' pregnant! Nothing, you see, is impossible with God."

And Mary said,

Yes, I see it all now:
I'm the Lord's maid, ready to serve.
Let it be with me
just as you say.

Then the angel left her.

Let's begin by remembering why God created us in the first place: God is love. We know this from Jesus' life, teachings, sacrificial death, and resurrection. Also, there are many stories in Scripture where we see God's deep love for us shine through. Since God is love, it makes sense that God would desire to give away that love or to be in loving relationship with others. God created us to be in relationship with God and to share that loving, meaningful, powerful relationship with all people. As our relationship with God grows, we begin to understand more and more the hopes and dreams of God!

Scripture tells us that, when Mary first heard God's call, she was understandably shaken. To have the Creator of the universe call her by name, then tell her she was "beautiful with God's beauty," reminded Mary that she had been created in the very image of God. Then to be told she would become pregnant by the power of God's Spirit and that the child would be called Holy, the Son of God — well, you might imagine that she felt the full force of God's power — both joy and fear.

Then Mary does something remarkable. She responds with humility in service to God!

Testimony: Kaitlyn's Story

Recently I talked with Kaitlyn, who is sixteen years old and has felt God's call to be a youth pastor, and asked her a few questions.

Jason: Explain for me the moment at which you felt God's call to be in ministry.

Kaitlyn: The moment I heard God's call I was sitting and reading the Bible. While I was reading, I was asking God for some guidance, because I felt I needed something to push me. Paul [in 1 Corinthians 12:1-11] says some are called to be pastors, some teachers, and so on. I immediately felt God was calling me personally into ministry. It's like it was something I was meant for and the words in the Scriptures were speaking directly to me. I felt my life was going in the direction of becoming a youth pastor. I began to notice certain people and resources that seemed to be sent by God to help me!

Jason: Wow, what a moment! Had you had any feelings about ministry before that?

Kaitlyn: Yes. I felt it when my confirmation small group all pointed at me when Adam [Senior Pastor of Church of the Resurrection, where Kaitlyn attends and where I serve on staff, and author of The Journey: Walking the Road to Bethlehem] asked who in the group should become a pastor. My class pointed at me, and I was scared and excited!

Jason: When did you first feel that you understood who God is?

Kaitlyn: At vacation Bible school when I was a kid. I remember learning that God is good and God created us. Then later in fifth grade, while at basketball camp at my church, I gave my heart to God.

Jason: Have you ever doubted that you "have what it takes" to be in ministry?

Kaitlyn: Yes, but then I remember stories about Mary and others in which God called regular people, even people who had no education or had made major mistakes in the past. Then I think I can do it with God's help. God will make me strong for God's call!

I listened to Kaitlyn talk about her calling, and I learned what Mary may have felt that day. How important it would have been for Mary to completely trust God through her call and resolve to remain strong even when she felt doubt.

Bringing the Scripture to My Life

• Have you ever felt God calling you, whether to ministry or to a specific task, in your day-to-day life?

• How does God speak to people today?

• How does knowing that God is love shape your understanding of what love is meant to be? How can we love God and others as Jesus commanded us?

• How have we (meaning people in general) misrepresented what love is meant to be?

• Read "Kaitlyn's Story." How can you relate to her experience of receiving God's call?

• How have you heard God's call? Has anyone ever told you that you may have a calling to serve God in a specific way? Have you prayed to God about what God may be calling you to do? Did you receive an answer? If so, what did you hear?

Taste and See (Optional)

In the Jewish world during the late first century B.C., where Mary lived, the women often started their day by making bread. They began by grinding grain, and they crushed the grain between stones in small, hand-operated mills to make flour.

Grinding grain, using the tools that were available in Mary's day, is no easy task. Give it a try.

* Leaders: Set up a grinding stone: Place a stack of newspapers on the floor. On top of this stack of newspapers, place a flat rock or wooden cutting board. Sprinkle millet seed, barley kernels, or wheat kernels on the cutting board or flat rock.

Participants should take turns using a round rock to smash the seeds or kernels on the flat rock or board. Smashing the seeds or kernels will produce flour that can be used to make bread.

After grinding the grain to make flour, things got a little easier. The women would add water and yeast to the flour to make dough. They would knead the dough for about an hour and then make the dough into thin, flat loaves about the size of a dinner plate.

* Leaders: Give each participant a ball of biscuit dough and some waxed paper. Tell them to put some flour on their hands, then invite them to knead the dough into a thin, round disk. When finished, place the flattened disks on a baking tray. Bake them according to the instructions on the package and serve them as a snack after baking.

Video Presentation and Discussion (Optional)

Watch the video segment "Mary's Story," from The Journey DVD. (Running Time: 9:19 minutes)


• An old Roman road leading from Sepphoris to Nazareth

• The Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth

• The spring in Nazareth that provides water for the village and was the reason people settled there so many years ago

• The Roman Catholic Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth that was built on top of caves

• A five-room cave near Jerusalem where one or two ancient families lived

• The Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, which is built over a grotto where, according to tradition, Mary lived and first heard the news that she would give birth to Jesus

Key Insights

Sepphoris, near Mary's hometown of Nazareth, was a city of thousands that had existed for hundreds of years and was a hub of Hebrew and Greek culture. The people of the village of Nazareth were poor when compared to their neighbors in Sepphoris. Many of them likely traveled to Sepphoris to work and shop, but they lived a much different lifestyle from those they encountered in the big city. People settled in Nazareth because it was home to a water source: a spring that provided the village "living water."

Nazareth's name likely comes from the Hebrew word for "branch" or "shoot." Several centuries earlier Isaiah used the image of a branch or shoot to talk about a ruler who would bring justice and righteousness. Adam Hamilton reads from a passage in Isaiah that talks about a shoot "from the stump of Jesse." Jesse was David's father. The person about whom Isaiah wrote would be a descendent of David, Israel's greatest king.

The people in Nazareth were peasants who were looked down on by their wealthier neighbors. We see evidence of this in John 1:46, where Nathaniel says, "Can anything from Nazareth be good?" God chose a village peasant girl who was considered insignificant by most to be the mother of the Messiah.

• What do we learn from this story about the character of God?

• What does this story teach us about Mary, and through Mary, about God's will for our lives?

• What does this story teach us about the child to be born to Mary?

Book Study and Discussion (Optional)

Prior to this session, read the first chapter of The Journey: Walking the Road to Bethlehem, by Adam Hamilton. Use the following questions to discuss this chapter with your group:

• What did you learn from this chapter about Mary's hometown of Nazareth?

• Why is the natural spring that still flows today so important to the town of Nazareth? Why was it important to Jesus' ministry?

• What did you learn from this chapter about Mary's life and upbringing?

• What does the Hebrew word netzer, which may have given Nazareth its name, mean? Why is this meaning significant?

• To whom or what were the prophets of ancient Israel and Judah referring when they wrote about the "branch" or "shoot"?

• What did you learn from this chapter about God and how God works?

Going Deeper in Truth

The Annunciation is one of many examples from Scripture in which God calls someone. Here are some others to read and discuss:

The call of Moses: Exodus 3:1–4:17

• What did God call Moses to do?

• How did God speak to Moses?

• How did Moses respond?

• What about Moses' call do you identify with?

The call of Gideon: Judges 6:11-24

• What did God call Gideon to do?

• How did God speak to Gideon?

• How did Gideon respond?

• What about Gideon's call do you identify with?

The call of the Jesus' first disciples: Luke 5:1-11

• What did Jesus call his disciples to do?

• How did Jesus call his disciples?

• How did his disciples respond?

• What about the first disciples' story do you identify with?

The call of Lydia: Acts 16:11-15

• What did God call Lydia to do?

• How did God reach out to Lydia?

• How did Lydia respond?

• What about Lydia's call do you identify with?

Experience Life in Community

* Leaders: Gather the participants in teams of two or three.

Work with your team to write and present a commercial to promote answering God's call. Think about the qualities and characteristics of someone who answers God's call. Be humorous and creative.

* Leaders: Invite each team to perform its commercials. Then discuss the following questions.

• What do these commercials teach us about how God calls us and how we should respond?

• What type of people do we expect God to call?

• What do we know from Scripture (and from our personal experience) about the type of people God calls?

Making It Personal

Often there are two reasons why people don't respond to a call from God:

1. They believe that God isn't truly speaking to them.

2. They believe that they aren't worthy of God's call.

However, time and time again, God has called unlikely people — people whom others surely considered unworthy, even ordinary. Moses was a fugitive who had committed murder; Rahab was a prostitute; Paul had hunted down and persecuted Christians; Mary was young and unmarried. Any of these people could have argued that he or she was unworthy (and Moses actually did). But God had other ideas.

What reasons have you given God for not responding to God's call? In the space below, list excuses you have given (or could imagine yourself giving) for not responding to God's call. Then mark through each one, as a symbol of eliminating the excuse and releasing you to fulfill God's dreams!

Closing: Listening for God

Gather in a circle for a "jear" (joy + fear) prayer. Your leader will begin the time of prayer, thanking God for the opportunity to come together and reflect on God's call. Allow anyone who feels led to say words that describe his or her fears about being called by God. After an appropriate amount of time, anyone who feels led may also say words that describe the joys of being called by God. A leader will close the prayer, perhaps using the following words:

Lord, we all have fears and we all dream of new joys. May we be content and trusting, just as Mary was before us, that you will work your power through both fears and joys! Amen.


Joseph of Bethlehem

Getting Started

Goals for This Session

— Learn how God — in the person of the Holy Spirit and through Scripture — gives us courage along the journey.

— Explore God's challenge to Joseph to stay faithful to God and true to Mary.

— Discover ways in which we can have the courage to become young men and young women of God.

Words to Know

Accomplice: a person who joins with another in carrying out some plan (especially an illegal or unethical plan)

Peer pressure: the influence exerted by a peer group in persuading a person to change his or her attitudes, values, and/or behavior to conform to the group


Have you ever felt that your own decisions were beyond your control? What I mean is this: Something happens that was not, in any way, a personal choice you made, yet you feel all the weight and judgment of what happens. Perhaps people look at you differently because of a decision made by a family member or close friend. They identify you with that decision and its consequences, even though you had nothing to do with it. They brand you as an accomplice.

Have you ever heard the saying, "You are who your friends are"? There is some truth to this statement. We all are influenced by the people who are closest to us. Whether we realize it or not, these relationships shape us. That's why it's so important to ask ourselves this question:

Do my friends point me upward toward Christ, or do they point me away from a relationship with him?

This question forces us to think critically about whom we allow to influence us. Here's an even more important question:

Am I the kind of friend who points people upward toward a life with Christ, or am I the kind of friend who pulls people downward?

Jesus' desire is for us is to choose to be in relationships that honor him, that help both persons make decisions as Jesus would make them, and in which both persons support each other and grow in faith.

Take Joseph. Joseph and Mary are engaged to be married. As we learned in the previous session, Mary answers God's call to give birth to the promised Messiah, placing her in a unique and touchy situation. She must tell Joseph, her husband-to-be, that she is pregnant and that the child in her womb is the Son of God. Then Joseph has a choice to make.

Read the following from Matthew 1:18-25, from the Common English Bible (CEB), a new translation combining scholarship and readability.

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ took place. When Mary his mother was engaged to Joseph, before they were married, she became pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband was a righteous man. Because he didn't want to humiliate her, he decided to call off their engagement quietly. As he was thinking about this, an angel from the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, don't be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because the child she carries was conceived by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you will call him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." Now all of this took place so that what the Lord had spoken through the prophet would be fulfilled:

Look! A virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, And they will call him, Emmanuel.

(Emmanuel means "God with us.")

When Joseph woke up, he did just as an angel from God commanded and took Mary as his wife. But he didn't have sexual relations with her until she gave birth to a son. Joseph called him Jesus.

These verses tell us a powerful story about trust in God. People would surely assume that Joseph and Mary had conceived a child out of wedlock or that Mary had been unfaithful to her fiancé. Joseph could have saved both of them a lot of grief if he had quietly called off the engagement. But he didn't. He remained faithful to God and to Mary. Joseph's decision shows that he was a man of courage and conviction and that he trusted God in a way that was stronger than any judgment the world could bring on him. This speaks greatly to Joseph's character as a man of God and as a soon-to-be husband and father.

Testimony: Phillip's Story

Recently I asked a young man I know named Phillip about character and integrity. Phillip is eighteen years old and a senior in high school.

Jason: Phillip, what does it mean to be a man of character?

Phillip: To me a man of character is someone whom a freshmen or a sophomore can look up to and wants to be like. Everyone goes through tough times. When you have someone to look up to, you think, I can make it through this because he or she did too.

Jason: Do you believe young men fall into temptation out of a fear of judgment?


Excerpted from The Journey by Jason Gant. Copyright © 2011 Abingdon Press. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Session 1: Mary's Story,
Session 2: Joseph of Bethlehem,
Session 3: Mary and Elizabeth,
Session 4: From Nazareth to Bethlehem,
Session 5: This Will Be a Sign to You,
A Churchwide Study of The Journey,

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