Jesus' Birth through the Eyes of the Shepherds, Angelic Host, and the Stable
Summary of Lesson Activities:
Puppets are used to tell the story of the birth of Jesus, focusing on the experience of the shepherds and the sheep. Children make sheep puppets to take home with them.
Luke 2: 1-21 (also Luke 1: 1-80, 2: 22-40 and Matthew 1:1 - 1:23)
At the end of the session the children will be able to:
- Locate the book of Luke in the New Testament and identify it as the third of four Gospels.
- Relate the story of the birth of Jesus.
- Understand the shepherds' fear, amazement and joy.
- Know that God's Good News truly is for all people, young and old, rich and poor, educated and not.
- Know that Ruth and Boaz are the grandparents of King David, who is a great- great...grandfather of Jesus.
- Read the scripture and background materials
- Gather the Materials
- Bible time puppets
- Halo for a puppet to be an angel (silver or gold tinsel garland works well)
- Small doll to be baby Jesus (or something wrapped to look like a baby in a small basket to be a manger
- Rough stable outlined at one end of the stage (make it from sticks or cardboard in an arch shape)
- Black construction paper
- Cotton balls
- Craft sticks
Opening- Welcome and Lesson Introduction
Greet the children and introduce yourself and any helpers that you have.
Dig- Main Content and Reflection
Background comments on the story:
It is significant that the first to hear the news of Jesus' birth directly from God's messengers were the shepherds -- dirty, smelly outsiders, despised by the orthodox followers of the law (shepherds had a hard time following the cleanliness laws out in the fields). But the Good News is truly for all people, not just the rich and clean, living in fine houses. Barclay suggests that the shepherds in this story may have been those "in charge of the flocks from which the Temple offerings were chosen. It is a lovely thought that the shepherds who look after the Temple lambs were the first to see the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." The angel's surprises continue: the proof of the truth of what the angel said is that the shepherds will find the baby born in a very lowly place. Babies are born daily! But they went to see this miraculous baby, and told everyone everything, and sang God's praises. Jesus was born as a commoner, not a king. He grew up surrounded by common people and went on to minister to and with the common people.
Early Arrival Activity: Make sheep puppets: precut 3 inch circles from cardboard. Children cover cardboard with cotton balls, add four construction paper legs and a pear-shaped head and ears. Draw a face using crayons. Tape a stick to the back and allow the glue to dry while the group hears the story. (Children should write their names on the backs and take the sheep home after class.)
Bringing the story to life: Puppetry
Open with prayer.
Read the scripture: Luke 2: 1-21
Discuss the story before acting it out.
Characters: Mary, Joseph, Jesus, angels, shepherds, sheep, other animals, innkeeper. (If time and class size permit, add King Herod and the three wise men from Matthew to your telling of the story.)
Where did the story take place? Bethlehem and the surrounding hills.
How would you feel if you were? Mary and Joseph hearing the shepherds tell about the angel's news? The shepherds seeing a rather ordinary-looking baby (or do you think he was ordinary-looking?)?
Outline the story: list key events and phrases on the flipchart.
Warm-up or follow-up exercises: (as time permits)
Say to the students: "Close your eyes. [turn off lights in room] Imagine a hillside in the country on a cool evening. You are sitting by a fire. There are sounds of sheep sleeping and moving restlessly nearby. You have just finished dinner. You are sleepy, but watchful since you have heard that wolves have been seen in the area. You are thinking about getting up to walk around the flock to see that all is okay. Suddenly, there is a bright light!! [turn lights on] (Remember, in your world there is no electricity. The only light at night you have ever seen was some sort of fire or candle, so this bright light is really scary!) There is an angel, who tells you not to be afraid, but to listen to the Good News.
"Who do you tell?"
"Do they believe you?"
(If you were able to find the book The Legend of the Christmas Rose, this would be a good time to show the picture of the shepherds' amazed excitement when they share the news with their family.)
Take a few minutes to review puppet manipulation techniques. Have all the puppets quietly sing "Away in a Manger" together, while they rock a pretend baby, put him in bed, etc.
Assign parts and act out the story with puppets. Put the flip chart with the story outline and key phrases where the children can see it. Encourage them to be creative and use their imaginations to extend the story and to create dialog where none is written in the Bible. (What did the shepherds talk about as they walked from the fields to the stable? What did they tell their families the next morning? Did the sheep say anything?)
If time permits, discuss what might have been missing, reassign parts, and act out the story again.
- How did God keep the promise to Abraham by sending Jesus?
- I wonder why God sent the Angel to the shepherds with the Good News, instead of to important people in town?
- The shepherds would have been considered outsiders in their community. They spent much time out in the fields with the sheep, and they weren't always clean. (Think about how hard it is to stay clean if you have ever been camping, or even spent a day outdoors.) Are there outsiders in our community? How can we invite and welcome them into our church family as the angels and God invited the shepherds to see the newborn king?
- The army of heaven's angels sang "Glory to God in the highest heaven." How can we show glory to God? Is it enough for us to be good to one another, or does God require more?
Thank you for sending a baby who will be the shepherd of us all. Help us to follow where the good shepherd leads us. And help us to go tell everyone everywhere the Good News of his birth with the excitement of the shepherds who heard the Good News first. Amen.
Have the kids assist you in putting the room back in order before they are dismissed.
Books for sharing before and after class: There are many picture book versions of the Christmas story available in the public library. Some are better than others. Look for ones with particularly attractive pictures or different ways of telling the story (not just King James English) or look for:
- Allan, Nicholas. Jesus' Christmas Party. Random House, 1991. (This story is not quite Biblically accurate, but it is great fun to imagine the innkeeper's reaction as a parade of visitors knock on his door, looking for the baby.)
- Clements, Andrew. Bright Christmas: An Angel Remembers. Clarion, 1996. (The story from an angel's point of view.)
- Hickman, Martha Whitmore. A Baby Born in Bethlehem. Whitman, 1999.
- Hooks, William. The Legend of the Christmas Rose. HarperCollins, 1999. (Luminous paintings illustrate this story of a little girl and her shepherd brothers traveling to Bethlehem to see the baby king.)
- Mayper, Monica. Come and See: A Christmas Story. HarperCollins, 1999. (Smiling shepherds lead the townspeople to the stable, ending with all dancing for joy around the stable.)
- Barclay, William. The Gospel of Luke: The Daily Study Bible Series, Revised Edition. Westminster Press, 1975.
- The Interpreter's Bible: Volume VIII: Luke and John. Abingdon Press, 1980.
- Wehrheim, Carol. Celebrate Teachers Guide: Ages 3/4/5, Year 3. Presbyterian Publishing Corporation, 1996. Sheep pattern and instructions, page 149. (Summarized below.)
A lesson written by Amy Crane from: Palmetto Presbyterian Church
Copyright 2001 Amy Crane. Permission granted to freely distribute and use, provided the copyright message is included
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