Jesus' Birth through the Eyes of the Shepherds, Angelic Host, and the Stable
Summary of Lesson Activities:
Students will bake Candy Cane Cookies to give away with a printed message, as a method of having them become messengers of the good news.
Key/Memory Verse: “But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.’” Luke 2:10 (NIV)
After completing this Rotation, participants shoule be able to:
- Name that the story is found in the New Testament. Identify the four Gospels and the meaning of the word “Gospel” as "good news."
- For 3rd grade and up: Locate the story in Luke.
- Retell Luke’s version of the birth of Jesus, with attention to the involvement of shepherds and angels.
- Recognize what the shepherds did with this good news that they received. Investigate their own role as a recipient and a messenger of the good news.
- Read the scripture for this lesson
- Read and reflect on the overview material provided for this lesson.
- Make cookie dough (see end of lesson for recipe)
- Gather the following materials...
- Bibles (for 3rd grade & up)
- Story Bible for younger students: The Children’s Bible in 365 Stories
- Extra flour
- Cookie dough in two colors (red and white); made ahead of time and in the refrigerator
- Kitchen timer
- Sandwich-sized baggies or Zipper baggies
- Ribbon and Scissors, or Tape
- Copies of “Merry Christmas” note (see end of lesson)
- Candy canes – shaped like J’s (one per student)
- Items in kitchen: Cookie sheets, parchment paper, spatulas, clean-up supplies
- On the day of class:
- Clean work surfaces.
- Write the key Bible verse with the scripture reference on the easel.
- Distribute Bibles around where students will be hearing the story.
- Dust an appropriate number of work areas (one per student) on the work surface with flour.
- Cover a cookie sheet(s) with parchment paper.
- Divide up the cookie dough so that each work area has a clump of red and a clump of white. For younger students make 1-inch balls of dough to speed the cookie making process. (Two balls, one of each color = one cookie)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Lesson Plan: Opening
Greet your students warmly, welcoming them to the Cooking Workshop. Introduce yourself and any other adults.etc.
Ask: How many of you have had something exciting and wonderful happen to you? Maybe you got a terrific grade on a test or you made a team you really wanted to make. (allow a few responses)
Say: I know when I have something exciting or wonderful happen to me I can’t wait to tell someone!! Maybe you can’t wait to tell your parents or your best friend. But somehow when good news happens, the first thing we want to do is... SHARE! Today, we are going to be baking cookies to share with someone special today, as a way of sharing good news.
Ask: What good news do you suppose we would want to share about the Bible, especially at this time of the year?
Say: That is right! The news of Jesus' birth is good news! Today we will talk about some particular people who first heard the good news that Jesus had been born.
Ask: Does anyone know who those people were? (the Shepherds)
Say: Today we are going to be baking candy cane cookies—cookies shaped like candy canes!
Do: Show a candy cane.
Ask: Who can tell me why we would make candy cane cookies when we are talking about shepherds and Jesus’ birth? (allow any replies)
Say: It is because of the shape of a candy cane. In one direction it’s a shepherd’s crook—a tool used by shepherds to watch over their sheep—and turned upside down, it’s a J for Jesus! Let's prepare to bake cookies by first washing our hands.
Dig: Main Content and Reflection
Do: Have everyone move into the kitchen, put on aprons, wash their hands, and gather around the work surface.
Say: We want to make these cookies with care, because we will be giving them away. We will be sharing our cookies.
Do: Demonstrate how to make the cookies. Working in the floured area, roll the dough into 1-inch balls (if this step has not already been done). Next, make ‘snakes’ or ropes out of each ball of dough. Be sure to make them the same length (6 inches) and same width. Then, working flat on the tabletop, twist the two colors of ropes together, making them into a candy cane shape. [Don’t hold the ropes up in the air as they will stretch out too much.]
Do: Have the students make their candy canes, helping those if needed. Put the cookies on the parchment-covered baking tray.
Do: Ask the class Shepherd to place the cookies in the oven and take them out when done. They bake for 12-15 minutes. Instruct the Shepherd to allow the cookies to cool a few minutes then divide the cookies onto serving trays and bring them to the class. Meanwhile, take the class to the story-telling area.
Prayer Time (if time allows)
Ask for any prayer requests. Ask if anyone would like to lead the group in prayer. Be prepared to say a prayer yourself, working in prayer requests. A suggestion: “Jesus, help us to listen carefully for your good news. Help us learn how we can spread the good news of your birth with others. (End with the Lord’s Prayer) Amen.”
Dig into the Bible Story:
- If we want to read something about Jesus’ life, where would we find it – in the Old Testament, or the New Testament of the Bible? (New Testament)
- What are the first four books of the New Testament? (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John)
- What is the name we have for the first four books of the New Testament? (the Gospels)
Say: The word Gospel means “good news.” News about the birth of God among us was very good news in those days and today. The Gospels are Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Our story is in Luke; Luke is the 3rd Gospel.
For 1st and 2nd graders:
Say: This Bible Storybook has the story with a picture of the shepherds visiting Mary and Joseph.
Do: Show them the picture on page 280 of The Children’s Bible in 365 Stories. Read the story on p. 280-281.
For 3rd grade and up:
Do: Have everyone find Luke 2:1 in the Bible. [Make sure everyone remembers the quick way to find the New Testament – dividing the Bible in half gets them near Psalms. Dividing the back half in half again gets them near the New Testament.]
Read the story together, Luke 2:8-12. In later weeks of the Rotation, ask the students if they can tell you the story. Have them check their Bibles for accuracy.
For all students:
- What do you suppose it was like to be a shepherd?
- Has anyone ever been camping?
- Is it easy to stay clean when you are camping? (no)
Say: Shepherds were people who probably were avoided. Since they lived like they were camping, they weren’t clean and they probably smelled like sheep.
Ask: Why do you suppose God first told shepherds and not the “important” people in town?
Say: I wonder if God choose shepherds to be the first to hear the good news because they were considered "smelly" people. God chose to tell the shepherds first, as a sign that God’s gift of his son Jesus was for everyone.
Ask: What does it mean that God’s gift is for everyone? (accept all replies)
Does that mean that Jesus came for me?
Does that mean that Jesus came for you?
Say: It is really good news that Jesus was born! Imagine the Shepherds amazement when all of the sudden the skies lit up and there were the heavenly hosts—a fancy way of saying a large bunch—of angels praising God.
- How do you think the shepherds felt? (scared and awestruck at the same time)
- How would you have felt if you had been there?
Say: I am guessing Shepherd Joe did not text his friend about Jesus’ birth! Back in the days of Jesus they did not have iphones, radio, tv, computers, or even a newspaper!
Ask: How do you suppose other people found out about Jesus’ birth? (by people telling other people)
Say: It is certain that the shepherds shared their experience with others over the years. It is doubtful that the story would have made it into the Bible if it had never been repeated.
Ask: Who delivers the good news of Jesus today? (take responses)
Can we share the good news of Jesus’ birth?
Say: So now, let’s repeat the good news about Jesus’ birth by sharing cookies!!
Do: Have everyone wash his/her hands. Load 2 or 3 cookies into each bag. Use the ribbon and scissors to tie the bag closed. (Or use zipper baggies.) Attach the label by tying it on with the ribbon. (Or use tape.)
Do: Students may take one bag of cookies home but must give any other bags away.
- To whom are you going to give your cookies? Let’s share with people who aren’t just our family.
- What will you say to them when you give them a cookie bag?
- What message about the good news of Jesus' birth can you share with the person who receives the cookies?
Say: I challenge you to be messengers, telling about Jesus just like the angels on that first Christmas. And just like the shepherds did after they had visited baby Jesus.
Ask: Do you think anyone will be ‘awestruck’ or ‘scared’ at receiving the Good News from us?
Close with a prayer and have the children assist in the cleanup.
If you have extra time
Discuss other ways we can be messengers of the good news. Practice giving the cookies away (what will the students say).
Write messages of Good News on slips of paper to attach to the cookies.
Attachment: Candy Cane Cookie Recipe
The dough for our lesson will be made ahead of time, as it is easier to work with if chilled.
2 cups white sugar
1 cup shortening (NOT butter or margarine)
2 eggs (use egg substitute for egg allergies)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk (or use soy milk for milk allergies)
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 cups all-purpose flour
red food coloring
Take half the dough and add a lot of red food coloring - mix. Wrap well and place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. (Over night is ok)
To form into candy canes: From each color of dough, make 1” balls of dough. Use your hands to roll out the balls into snake shapes that are 6” long. Do this rolling on the tabletop; not in the air or the snakes will stretch out too long! Place on a greased or parchment covered cookie sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes.
Makes approximately 30 cookies.
Attachment – Make copies of the following on red or green paper
Merry Christmas to You!
With these cookies, we spread the good news of Jesus’ birth, like the shepherds did so long ago. (Does the cookie look like a shepherd’s crook?)
Remember Jesus when you eat them... do you see the “J”?
A lesson written by Carol Hulbert, Carol Teener and Nicole Merritt from First UMC, Ann Arbor, MI, USA
Copyright 2007 First United Methodist Church, Ann Arbor, MI.
Permission to copy materials granted for non-commercial use provided credit is given and all cited references remain with this material