Saint Luke the Evangelist


This Sunday (October 18) the church celebrates the feast of Saint Luke the Evangelist. Unfortunately, we do not have any books about the life of Saint Luke, though we have many books based on the stories in Luke’s Gospel. The truth is that we don’t know a whole lot about each of the Gospel writers as there is little historically reliable information about their lives. We do know from Scripture that Luke was a doctor (Colossians 4:14), a travelling companion of Saint Paul (Philemon 1:24, 2 Timothy 4:11), the author of both the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles, and it is suggested that Luke was probably a Gentile, making him the only non-Jewish Evangelist. Some tradition has suggested that he was also a martyr, but no significant details of his death are known.

Excerpted from Holy Women, Holy Men

Luke was a Gentile, a physician, and one of Paul’s fellow missionaries
in the early spread of Christianity through the Roman world. He has
been identified as the writer of both the Gospel which bears his name,
and its sequel, the Acts of the Apostles. He had apparently not known
Jesus, but was clearly much inspired by hearing about him from those
who had known him.

Luke wrote in Greek, so that Gentiles might learn about the Lord,
whose life and deeds so impressed him. In the first chapter of his
Gospel, he makes clear that he is offering authentic knowledge about
Jesus’ birth, ministry, death, and resurrection. The Gospel is not a full
biography—none of the Gospels are—but a history of salvation.
Only Luke provides the very familiar stories of the annunciation to
Mary, of her visit to Elizabeth, of the child in the manger, the angelic
host appearing to shepherds, and the meeting with the aged Simeon.
Luke includes in his work six miracles and eighteen parables not
recorded in the other Gospels. In Acts he tells about the coming of
the Holy Spirit, the struggles of the apostles and their triumphs over
persecution, of their preaching of the Good News, and the conversion
and baptism of other disciples, who would extend the Church in
future years.

Luke was with Paul apparently until the latter’s martyrdom in Rome.
What happened to Luke after Paul’s death is unknown. Early tradition
has it that he wrote his Gospel in Greece, and that he died at the age
of eighty-four in Boeotia. Gregory of Nazianzus says that Luke was
martyred, but this testimony is doubted by most scholars. In the fourth
century, the Emperor Constantius ordered the supposed relics of Luke
to be removed from Boeotia to Constantinople, where they could be
venerated by pilgrims.

Respond to the Story

1. Luke and Letter writing: The Acts of the Apostles and Gospel of Luke are both addressed to Theophilus. Imagine you are writing a letter to a friend and telling them the most important stories about Jesus. What story would you tell? What story do you most want to know? What questions do you have about Jesus that are not answered in any of the Gospels? If you class would like, we can send these letters to people in our church who receive visitors, but are unable to come on Sunday mornings.

2. The Evangelists: An Evangelist is someone who shares the good news of God in Christ. Create books of the four evangelists by cutting out the images from this coloring page and gluing them on to different pages. You might call this a four-fold Gospel-writer codex (har.har.).

3. Icons of the Madonna and Child: Some traditions hold that Saint Luke was a friend of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and that he painted her first portrait. This is why images of Luke often show him painting Mary and Jesus. It is also why Luke is the patron saint of artists and iconographers. (When iconographers paint an icon it is called “writing” an icon.) Create your own image or write your own icon of Mary and Jesus. Writing an icon is very serious work. It isn’t just painting, an iconographer prays with every stroke, reflecting on the life and work of the person, scene, or story that is depicted. Icons are holy. If you do this activity, try to encourage a sense of calm and quiet in the class while you complete the work (play music on an ipad while working). Younger classes may need to use a coloring page like one of these. Try using the coloring sheet differently though, carefully gluing squares of tissue paper is a wonderful way to get a mosaic of Mary and Jesus.

4. Winged ox–The symbol for Saint Luke is a winged ox. All of the Evangelists (writers of the Gospels) have different symbols. Matthew is a winged human, Mark a winged lion, and John an eagle. The Patristic Fathers, beginning with Jerome, associated the four winged creatures with the creatures who draw the throne of God in Ezekiel 1. Luke’s symbol the ox was assigned because Luke opens up with the sacrifice of Zechariah. No source I found mentioned this, but the ox also seems to be appropriate to the Gospel in which the main character is placed in a feeding trough.

Discuss this symbol with your class and create a depiction of it individually or together. Tracing paper may be especially helpful for this one and is available in the supply closet. Make a large collage of the winged ox together. Create an image with acrylic paint or colored pencils, or a combination of different mediums. If you are interested in showing your class symbols for the remaining Gospel writers, you may find an image here. Churches and cathedrals often show all of the Evangelists together, some on all four corners of large, mosaic ceilings, an image of the cross central to the grouping (example here).

Meister der Fuldaer Schule, Deutsch: Der Evangelist Lukas, c. 840. from Wikimedia Commons.

5. Gospel Writer Activity (Older children, This activity will take most if not all of a class period and may, if you choose, be separated into two weeks): Each of the four Gospels presents part of the picture of Jesus’ life and ministry. While many details and stories are shared among all the Gospels, there are also stories and details that are unique to each. Luke, for example, includes the story of the Annunciation, Mary’s visit with her cousin Elizabeth, and the story of Jesus’ birth and the shepherds visitation. In this activity, children will work as a group to consider the experience of the Gospel writers as they recorded details from the life of Christ. This activity will take your whole class.

Divide your class into two groups. One group of students should be assigned a text from the Gospel of Luke (A shorter selection from the stories in Luke 2:1-40 may be a good start). This group should go into the commons and work on acting out the story. The other group (of at least three or four students) should remain in the class. After 5-10 minutes, the first group returns to the class and acts out the selected scenes.

After the scenes are presented, teachers offer a few questions for consideration (don’t answer out loud yet!) What happened in the story? What did the story say about who God is? What was your favorite part of the story? What was your least favorite part? Those who remained in the class and did not act out the story then work in pairs to rewrite the story they saw. The writing groups should keep in mind the questions above as they work. Reconvene the large group, and share each story. What is common among all the stories? What details are left out of each telling? What details are added? How are these stories different? What does this activity suggest about the Gospel writers accounts of the story?

Finish with prayer and your feast.


Christ: Jesus Teaches in the Temple


Aside from the story of the Magi (from Matthew), and the story of Jesus teaching in the temple, we don’t know very much about Jesus’ early life. Even those stories we do have are vague, hardly satisfying our journalistic desire for details and  interesting stories. The story of Jesus teaching in the temple happens well before Jesus’  public ministry. Even then, we are already starting to see Jesus’ identity as a prophet and teacher. We also get a glimpse, albeit a vague one, of Jesus’ relationship with his family. Children may be interested in thinking about Jesus as a child just like them. It is a time when we can emphasize that Jesus was a real human: a living, breathing, growing, and learning person with a family and experiences ( most of which we know little to nothing about). It might be interesting to wonder why this is. Why did the Gospel writers not think to say much of Jesus’ early life? Why is this story one of the only one’s we have? Is it that important? What does this story say about Jesus and the other stories might not say? Did Jesus already know who he was and what that meant?

Hear the Story

Our story today may be found in Luke 2:41-52. Since it is a pretty short story, it’s an ideal one to share from a real Bible rather than one of the storybook Bibles.

Respond to the Story

Every once in a while, it is good to offer open-ended response opportunities to your students. It encourages them to identify something about the story that stands out to them, something that they find important. If none of the ideas below stand out to you, use the resources on the Hearing and Responding to Stories page to generate ideas.

Open-ended response: Choose one or two of the response types below, then set up your classroom space. After you share the story, tell your students that they can respond to the story at one of the stations. Allow students to work independently, and check in as their work progresses. Encourage them and help them if they get stuck by asking questions. You may want to ask them about the content by saying something like, “tell me about your picture here.” Keep all of the art at the end of the class so that we can hang them up. The biggest prep for this is the way you lay out materials, so think about items that you know are in the supply closet, and how they might encourage open-ended exploration.

1. Body Response: For this station, set out costumes, and objects that represent materials from the story and encourage your students to act out the story together. It might be especially helpful to ask them about the different characters in the story and how they reacted–How did Mary and Joseph respond to Jesus’ answer that he was doing his Father’s work? What story from the Old Testament might Jesus have been responding to?

Alternatively, they can tell the story to each other and come up with body gestures (every time someone says Scribes or teachers, everyone takes a particular body posture).

2. Artistic Response:  Provide blank pieces of paper, a variety of materials, and something like paint or colored pencils. Ask them to think about the part of the story that is most important to them. Then, invite students to create an artistic depiction of that part of the story.

3. 3-D Artistic Response: Offer play-doh or modeling clay from the supply closet. Cover the tables with brown craft paper and allow them to work with an image or theme from the story that was important to them. Ask questions and offer a listening ear as they work.

4. Written Response: For this response, provide writing materials and a couple of prompts to choose from. Encourage students to illustrate their writings. Here are some suggested prompts:

What part of the story is most important and why?

If you could change one or more things about the story, what would it be and why?

If you were asked to tell this story to someone, how would you tell it?

Ask your students to help you clean up the space before snack and closing in prayer. 

Christ: Travelers from the East Encounter Christ

Take some time to adjust to your classroom and become reacquainted with it’s rhythms. If you have “rules or guidelines” for behavior, spend a moment on those. If your class is working on memorizing a particular piece of Scripture/song/prayer, work with that. Also take a bit of time to reconnect socially after our long break. Play a name game and ask you students about their Christmas celebrations thus far. Use this as an opportunity to share with them that the season of Christmas is still happening–in fact, it’s a 12 day celebration that wont end for a another two days (from Sunday)!

Illuminated Manuscript of Farnborough Abbey


This week’s story is a favorite of mine and a familiar one for most of our students. Our Gospel from Matthew 2:1-12 highlights that Jesus is not just King and Savior for those who are near (the shepherds), but even for those who are far off (the Magi); Jesus is the King and Savior for all people.

Matthew shares that the Magi bring exotic and expensive gifts: gold (fit for royalty), frankincense (used in worship), and myrrh (an expensive perfume used for embalming). Each of these gifts represent something symbolic about who Jesus is. How do the Magi understand the birth of this Baby? This is a theme you may want to explore with your class.

As an interesting aside, Matthew shares with us the three gifts of the Magi, but not the number of visitors. In fact, early tradition held that there were 12 visitors–representing the 12 tribes of Israel–but Matthew offers no such detail. Noticing the differences in what we remember about the story and the fact that the text does not specify this particular detail reminds us to pay close attention, even to those stories we know quite well.

Hear the Story

In the new year, we would like to have our children grow more familiar with their Bibles. We almost always work on Bible stories, but we want them to know how to find stories in the Bible and develop skills for reading the Bible together. This is especially important for our older children (in 2nd grade and above), but our younger children (3 years–1st grade) need a good foundation too. Begin sharing the story with your students by sharing where this story comes from.  For this story, you might say: “Our story is from the Gospel of Matthew. It is the first book in the New Testament and it is called a Gospel because it shares with us stories about the good news of Jesus Christ. There are three other books that have these special stories. They are also called Gospels–they are Mark, Luke, and John. We read a story from one of these four special books every week in Church. When we read these stories in church we usually stand while we listen because they are so important to us.” Plan on doing this kind of brief introduction every week this year. In the future, I will suggest more hands-on ways for your students to become familiar with the Bible in concrete ways.

This story, Matthew 2:1-12, is wonderful for reading directly from a real Bible translation for most of our age groups. It is also a very popular story in our children’s Bibles and some of our storybooks (in the Christian Education library).

Respond to the Story

1. Act out the Story: After reading the story, grab some of the costumes and accessories from our supply closets and act out the story in groups of three or four. Discuss the long travel, the Magi’s experience in the company of Herod, their encounter with the Christ child, and their return home. What were their experiences? What did they think when the encountered Jesus and did it make any difference for them? Why did they return home another way, avoiding a second visit with Herod?

2. A Gift for Christ: Discuss the three gifts that the Magi bring to the Baby Jesus. Wonder together about what they mean and why these gifts would be given to a baby. What use did Mary, Joseph, and Jesus have for these gifts and what do you think they did with them? I mentioned above what each of these gifts was used for, are these symbols significant? Do they help us reflect on the life (or death) of Jesus? Discuss also what gifts we bring to Christ. Teachers might share about a gift that they have given to Christ. Ask your students to create a poster of the gifts they have to offer to God and God’s people. Share our “gifts to God” with the rest of the class.

3. Star ornaments: You can make a star ornament for the children to put on their tree or near their household creche. A simple Popsicle stick ornament made from three overlapping Popsicle sticks may work well. For older children, invite them to write part of the story (Maybe Matthew 2:10) on the back of the ornament.

4. Three Magi Popsicle stick craft: Make this three Magi craft together. Crafts like this work well when we invite the children to share the story with us after. We are doing more than just creating a cute craft, we are helping them find and create resources to explore the story further when they go home. Ask you students to practice this by having them share the story with one another using their magi figures. Remind them to do the same thing from their parents, grandparents, or siblings.

5. Wise Men visit Jesus Finger Play (our 3+4 year old class will love this!): Learn this short finger play about the Magi’s visit to the Baby Jesus by watching this video.

6. Mosaics: By now you may well know my love for mosaic and collage responses. You can use this collage mosaic of a star (there is one of the three magi right below it) as inspiration for a class poster of your own.

7. We Three Kings: Teach your students all the verses to We Three Kings (lyrics can be found here), a carol composed by an Episcopal priest in Pennsylvania in 1857. In this song, all of the singers sing the first and last verse and the refrain. Each of the three kings sings about the gift they are bringing to the infant king. Spend a bit of time looking at the words and discussing what they mean.

Bonus: As a bonus activity, once you finish working with the song by talking about it and singing it together, each child may enjoy pretending that they are bringing one of these gifts to Jesus. Write a letter to a friend explaining why the gift is important and what it means. They may want to choose a different gift–maybe one of the gifts that they personally offer to God–and write a letter to a friend explaining what the gift it and what it means.

8. Bible Verse Memorization: First, each child can find the story in a Bible. Then, choose a part of the story or a verse that your class would like to memorize together (good options are 2:5-6, 9, 10, 0r 11). Use group and small team memorization games to learn part of the story by heart.

Close with Prayer and a Feast

We share a small