Rotation.org Writing Team
Shepherds and Angels
Summary of Activities
*Bethlehem Live* is a guided lesson in the format of a “TV Show” that playfully retells the Luke 2:8-20 scripture (shepherds and angels) using two popular songs: “Angels We Have Heard on High” (sung in a special "echo" version) and “Go Tell It On the Mountain” (acted out with a fun camera angle). The two songs in this lesson were specifically chosen for their popularity, ease of singing, Luke 2 story coverage, and their life application.
After each song presentation in fron of a "live studio audience," the singers are interviewed by the TV Host using answers the students have prepared in advance. When not on camera, students sit in the “audience” and provide applause.
The “camera” is a video camera or cellphone connected to a TV so that the on-camera action can be seen live on the TV as it happens by the other students. This provides a fun focus as the event is also recorded. The live feed from the camera will also allow us to create a really fun “sideways scene" special effect for singing “Go Tell It On the Mountain.” See the graphic at the end of this lesson about how to easy it is to connect your cellphone to your TV.
After each group sings its song, the Host briefly interviews them.
Scripture for the Lesson
Luke 2:1-20 (NRSV. With an emphasis on 8-18, Shepherds and Angels)
Key/Memory Verse: “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord." Luke 2:10-11 (NRSV)
See the Bible Background at rotation.org for this set's complete list of objectives.
Preparation and Materials
- Read the scripture and Bible Background.
- Print copies of the attached script for leaders
- Print enlarged lyrics sheets: Angels We Have Heard on High & Go Tell It On the Mountain
- Videocamera or cellphone with connecting cable to the TV (see attached graphic for help)
- Ladder and "Selfie stick" (or tripod) for holding cellphone/camera (if using the "sideways scene" technique)
- Cut out of mountain (approximately 5' high by 3' wide)
- Rope for climbing (approximately 10' long)
- Costumes for angels/shepherds
- Flipchart to post enlarged lyrics on
- Cards to write answers to interview questions
- Fake microphone for interviews
- Watch an example of a "sideways scene" video here (also seen below).
Technical Setup Notes: Plugging your cellphone or videocamera into your TV will produce a "live" feed of whatever you are recording. A six foot cellphone to TV cable is about $15 on Amazon. Setting up a divider so that the audience can only see the singers on TV is not only fun, it takes the pressure off of shy kids being asked to sing in front of others. Depending on your setup or confidence of your students, the divider is optional.
This lesson plan requires about 50 minutes of class time to fully complete, assuming you have prepped everything ahead of time and have plenty of help. It may also be split into two lessons. Having helpers who know what you want to accomplish and can keep the kids organized will be a great help. See "Adaptations" as the end of this lesson for time and age adjustments, including a "two Sunday" and "intergenerational Advent event" option for this lesson.
Welcome your students and explain what they'll be doing and learning in today's lesson.
Assign parts using the Bethlehem Live Script.
Read the scripture, then have the shepherds, angels, and mountain climbers discuss and prepare their answers to the interview questions found in the Script. The interview questions and answers are the "study" portion of the lesson.
Take time to rehearse the singing presentations.
Use the attached script to produce the show. The script explains the set-up, parts to assign, and has age adaptations and presentation suggestions. It also contains the script for the interviews.
The final video-recording of the show as scripted and sung should result in about 15 minutes of show. Figure 10 minutes for scripture and student prep for the interviews and 15 minutes to perform a "walk through" (not full rehearsal) of the script prior to recording. Reduce prep time by having the "tv studio" set-up and ready to go. Recruit plenty of helpers who have been prepped to know what you want to accomplish. Don't forget to print the enlarged lyric sheets also attached to this lesson.
- Opening remarks by Host (30 sec)
- The Angels We Have Heard on High Singers (the echo version) (4 min)
- Interview with the Shepherds and Angels (3 min)
- The Go Tell It On the Mountain Singer-Climbers (the "sideways scene") (4 min)
- Interview with the Mountain Climbers (3 min)
- Closing remarks by the Host (30 sec)
Close with this music video on YouTube of "Go Tell It On the Mountain" from Union College in Lincoln Nebraska. Pay close attention to the visual message of "serving others" as a way of "going and telling it." It's great.
Ask what we as a church are already doing to "go and tell," and what each of us could be doing to "go and tell."
View the *Bethlehem Live* TV show recording so they can see themselves singing.
Alternately, save this video for a second class period to review the Bethlehem Live recording and follow it up with the music video and discussion.
See the Script for specific age and class size adaptations.
Both songs have "refrains" which non-readers can easily be taught to sing. Have older children, helpers, teens, even the camera person help sing the verses. We're not terribly concerned with "teaching" the words to both songs as most kids will hear them each Advent. Talk to your pastor about including these songs in worship.
To reduce prep and organizational time, recruit theatrically-inclined teens and adults to help students, especially younger students. Prep your helpers ahead of time as to what you want to accomplish. You can increase or decrease the number of shepherds, angels, and climbers as needed and adjust the script accordingly.
A Two Sunday Option:
Schedule a second class time to watch your "Bethlehem Live" show recording and sing the songs again (perhaps even trying new versions of the "sideways scene" for the songs. You can also play the Union College music video during this second class for follow-up discussion.
Intergenerational Advent Event Option:
Organize this lesson as an Advent event. You can record the show as scripted within an hour. To save time you could also create two performance groups which each make their own video recording of their song and interview, then come back together to show their recordings to the whole group (no "live" TV connection required). If you'd like, you can also "sideways scene" the "Angels We Have Heard on High" song -- doing an echo version with angels flying as they sing. Show the Union College music video and ask attendees to brainstorm a list of all the ways the church is spreading the "good" news, and ways families could do it this season.
Options for those who need a shorter or simpler approach:
- Perform the songs and conduct the interviews without the "Live TV" feed. Record (or don't) as desired.
- Eliminate one of the songs, or have one of the songs rehearsed and performed by a group of teens who can quickly join in and not require rehearsal during class.
- Skip the Reflection video and ask its question.
"Sideways Scenes" are a hoot! Here's a YouTube video that demonstrates the humor created by this unique camera angle.
They are also easy to set up. All you need to do is attach your cellphone of camera to a long self-stick or folded tripod and suspend it over the kids lying on the floor and acting out the song/scene. Have an adult stand on a step ladder to get the camera above the kids. Move the TV close to the ladder or have an extra-long HDMI2Cellphone connection cable.
Here's another YouTube link to a "sideways scene" skit recorded during worship in a church. The principle we're using in the above lesson is the same, albeit, simplified and shorter for Sunday School purposes. In many ways, it's another way to do a skit that's so fun it makes the kids less self-conscious and the skits more memorable.
About the Cellphone to TV Cable
The *LIVE* TV feed is really fun and easy to setup. You just need a cable to go between your camera/cellphone and TV. Click image to enlarge. You will find many uses for this type of inexpensive cable, including giving you the ability to take photos and show them on your TV and use your cellphone's internet connection to access internet content. There are other types of cables/connectors for different types of cellphones and older TVs that don't have HDMI inputs.
Written by Neil MacQueen and the Rotation.org Writing Team
Copyright 2019, Rotation.org Inc.