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Music Lessons, Ideas, Activities, and Bible Background Notes for Teaching "Isaiah Foretells the Messiah" in Sunday School.

Post your Sunday School music lessons, ideas, activities, and bible background notes for teaching about Isaiah's prophecies of the Messiah here, including lessons teaching about the names of Jesus. See also the detailed Isaiah Bible Background written by our Writing Team and open to all.

Visit the Music & Movement Workshop Forum for many ideas and links about teaching with music and movement that can be applied to this passage.

A Bible Background
Jesus’ Birth through the Eyes of Isaiah

by Carol Hulbert, First United Methodist Church, Ann Arbor, MI

~ I wrote this for teachers at my church. Hope it is useful to you. ~Carol

Scripture Reference: Isaiah 6:1-8, Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:21-23, Isaiah 9:6

Key Verse: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6 (NIV)

Some Suggested Teaching Objectives:

After completing this Rotation, participants will be able to:

  • Name that the story is found in the Old Testament.
  • (3rd grade and up) Locate the story in the Bible. Identify Isaiah as a book of Prophecy.
  • Define prophet: “God’s messenger.”
  • Retell the story of the prophet Isaiah’s commissioning experience in the temple.
  • Recognize that Isaiah foretold the coming of the Messiah years before the birth of Jesus. (Jesus’ birth was planned by God way in advance!)
  • Identify some of the names to which Isaiah referred to this coming Messiah, and explore these names as attributes of Jesus’ character – Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Story Background

Advent is the time of preparation for the birth of Christ. Since Advent and Christmas happen every year, this gives us a chance to concentrate on different aspects of the Christmas story. This Advent our Rotation will focus on Jesus’ birth through the eyes of the prophet Isaiah.

What is a prophet?

A prophet is defined as God’s messenger; prophecy is the message from God that a prophet brings to the people. The Hebrew word for prophet is “nabi” which means seer. It is misleading, however, to think of prophets as only telling what will happen in the future. We are reminded: “They weren’t in the business of providing horoscopes” (Petersen, 4). The prophets of the Old Testament also spoke about the past and the present, often mixed in with warnings about current behavior. Prophets brought God's message – the truth – to the people.

Books of prophecy make up a major portion of the Old Testament. Isaiah is the first book of prophecy. New Testament writers quoted from Isaiah more frequently than any other book – Isaiah is mentioned 46 times in the Gospels alone. Many of the foretelling types of prophecies of Isaiah, came true in the New Testament. Given the fact that we are discussing the Christmas story, we will highlight some of Isaiah’s prophecies about the coming of Christ.

Who was Isaiah?

Isaiah was evidently from a distinguished Jewish family who lived in Jerusalem. Isaiah’s long ministry lasted from about 740 - 680 BC. He lived at the same time as the prophets Amos, Hosea and Micah. It appears that he was a statesman, a scholar and a poet. His ministry spanned the reigns of four kings: Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah. Isaiah “witnessed the decline of Judah and the rise of the Assyrian empire. [Judah in this case refers to the kingdom of Judah; the region settled by the tribe of Judah – the fourth son of Jacob. This region was also called Judea.] This was a time of tumultuous political upheaval, which saw the expansion of the Assyrian empire. Over and over again Isaiah implored the four kings who ruled during his ministry to seek an alliance only with God rather than with surrounding nations” (Fisher).

How did people back then feel about Prophets?

Prophets were often very unpopular with the people of the times. “God’s prophets were not sent when people were obedient to God; rather they spoke when the people had turned away and were deep in sin and far from God” (Fisher). Who, after all, likes to hear about the bad things we do! So we hear the people say to the prophets:

“Give us no more visions of what is right! Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions. Leave this way, get off this path and stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 30:10b-11).

A Light in the darkness

Prophets also brought hope and encouragement to people who longed for a different kind of kingdom. The people were waiting for a new king David, a ruler who would bring peace and justice.

A coming Messiah

Several Old Testament prophets foretell this “Messiah” or anointed one, the expected king and deliverer of the Jews. Isaiah’s prophecies about the coming of Christ include hints of who this Savior would be. Remember, these are presented 700 years before they take place! A few of Isaiah’s prophecies:

  • Isaiah 7:14 “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel” (NRSV).
    This name, Immanuel means: “God with us.” There is controversy over whether this particular verse from Isaiah was speaking of Jesus. Nevertheless, Matthew 1:23 quotes this verse. Matthew believed that Jesus was the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies.

  • Isaiah 9:6 “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given…”
    A “child” lets us know that this Messiah will be a human. A “son” tells us of his divine nature. “That the two are combined in one human person is beyond our comprehension. Isaiah does more here than returning to the Immanuel theme. This is the miracle of the incarnation: ‘The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us’ (John 1:14)” (Schultz, 56).

  • “…And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
    Here we are given attributes of the Savior’s character:
    » Wonderful: fills our hearts with amazement! “The Hebrew word rendered wonderful is pele’, which is derived from a word meaning ‘a miracle.’ We find the word for the first time in the Bible in the song of Moses, sung after the drowning in the Red Sea of the Egyptian army” (Schultz, 57).
    » Counselor: giver of advice; one who guides us.
    » Mighty God: power and majesty.
    » Everlasting Father: an eternal nurturing presence.
    » Prince of Peace: “Not the military leader that the Hebrew people were expecting who would save them from their subservience to Rome” (Fisher).

  • Isaiah 9:7a,b “Of the increase of his government and peace, there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom.”
    Prophecy is that the Messiah shall come from the house of David.

Christ was this Savior (The remainder of this document is attributed in large part to Fisher.)

The Greek form of the word Messiah (anointed one) is “Christ.” The anointing indicated that God had chosen this person to do an important job. Jesus Christ is the anointed one, the Messiah whom God sent for us… So Jesus is the anointed one whom God appoints to save us from our sins.

Christ’s purpose is to be our Savior. Saving is the reason for Jesus’ birth, the subject of his teaching, the cause of his death and resurrection. Jesus brings about a new method of salvation, a change from the old sacrificial system, yet one that retains some symbolic similarities to it especially the understanding of how one wins one’s way back into God’s favor, cleanses oneself from sin and restores relationship with God. Blood was central to this old sacrificial system and it is central to Jesus’ sacrifice as well. We read many New Testament verses referring to “the blood of the lamb,” and “Jesus’ blood shed for us for the remission of sins.”

Looking back on Isaiah’s prophecies with New Testament eyes

Recall that Jesus himself quoted from the book of Isaiah, when he read from a scroll in the temple, as described in Luke 4:17-19: The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” This was an ENORMOUS event at the time, because Jesus announced to the congregation that he, himself, was the Messiah whom Isaiah had predicted. Some believed him, some were skeptical, and others were amazed at the boldness of this lowly carpenter.

The early Christians (after Christ’s resurrection) were quite familiar with many of Isaiah’s prophetic passages. They also knew of the “suffering servant” passages from Isaiah 52-53: “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:5-6)

The church understood these passages to describe Christ as Savior, the one who bears the sins and resultant punishment for others so that they might be saved. The imagery of these passages comes directly from the Hebrew sacrificial system, an innocent (blemish-free) victim who dies in the place of the sinner. Nearly a third of the content of the Gospels concentrates on the death of Jesus. Clearly the Gospel writers understood that Jesus had come into the world to die. Without minimizing Jesus’ teaching, miracles and various encounters, they nevertheless focused on this primary issue – that he should die. So why is this the “good news?” Only when we look through the lens of Jesus Christ as Savior can this account of suffering and death be considered good news. Only by understanding our own need for a savior, our own human inadequacy to save ourselves, can we begin to understand what God has done for us.


  • Bromiley, Geoffrey W. (ed). International Standard Bible Encylcopedia Vol. 2:E-J. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1982.
  • Easton, Matthew George. “Entry for ‘Prophet’”. Easton's Bible Dictionary. 1897.
  • Fisher, Debbie. “ Writing Team Lessons On The Birth Of Jesus Through The Eyes Of Isaiah: Bible Background.” 2002.
  • Guzik, David. “Isaiah 9: Unto Us a Child is Born.” David Guzik’s Commentaries on the Bible. 2001.
  • iLumina Gold Premium. CD-ROM. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 2006.
  • Peterson, David L., and Gene M. Tucker. The New Interpreter's Bible Isaiah - Ezekiel (Volume 6). Nashville: Abingdon, 2001.
  • Schultz, John. “Commentary to Book of Isaiah.” Bible-Commentaries.Com. 2007.

    Except as noted, Scripture quoted is taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

    When “NRSV” is version noted, Scripture quoted is taken from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. All rights reserved.

Bible Background Copyright 2009 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. If you use this material, even in a modified form, please include a reference to where you got it!


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Advent Song:  "He Shall Be Called" by New Hope Music

Editor's Note:
This link is still good as of October 2016.

This is a wonderful (no pun intended!) song that we've sung in worship during Advent ... "He Shall Be Called".

Listen to the song at:

The link also leads to FREE Midi files of the song, FREE sheet music, chords, kids' choirs singing it, they've got it all at their site for this song.

New Hope

Screen Shot 2016-10-11 at 1.00.00 AM


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Jesus' birth through the eyes of Isaiah and the Prophets

Games/Music Workshop

Summary of Lesson Activities:

In this workshop children will play a game to learn about the songs and carols of Christmas and how we often sing words of prophecy to celebrate Christ’s birth. The children will play NAME THAT CAROL which is played according to the format of the old television show NAME THAT TUNE.

Scripture References:

Isaiah 7:14; Isaiah 9:6-7a

Key Verse:

Isaiah 9:6 (NLT)

Workshop Objectives:

At the end of this rotation, the students will

  • be able to find Isaiah in the OT.
  • know that God promised to send His Messiah, and He kept His promise.
  • know that one of the ways God makes those promises known is through the prophets, God’s messengers.
  • understand that Jesus of Nazareth IS the Savior, the Anointed One, the Messiah, the Christ, God-with-us, promised in the Hebrew scriptures.
  • know the memory verse.

Additionally, at the end of the session, the students will

  • Know the history of some of the common Christmas carols.

Leader Preparation:

  • Read the scripture passages and lesson plan.
  • Learn the memory verse.
  • Consider the age level adjustments needed each week (those included in the lesson plan and your own).
  • To our teachers at RCC: The design of this workshop is very intentional. The activities and discussion questions for this workshop were designed to meet the goals of the entire rotation and the educational objectives of the Rotation Model at River Community Church. While we feel it is important to follow the serendipitous leading of the Holy Spirit, please do not change the lesson plan without consulting a Curriculum Planning and Writing Team member.
  • You need to be able to play the treble clef melody notes to carols on a keyboard in order to do this lesson. If you can't do it, then you need to ask a friend who can read music to assist you with the lesson! Music will be provided! At most, you will only need to play 4 notes for each!
  • These are the 10 carols to be used: Silent Night, O Holy Night, Joy to the World, Away in a Manger, What Child Is This, We Three Kings, Noel, It Came Upon A Midnight Clear, O Little Town of Bethlehem, O Come All Ye Faithful.

Materials List:

  • Small keyboard
  • Hymnal with the Christmas carols or a music book such as Christmastime…for Singing
  • O.Holy.Knight.puzzle.clip10 carol puzzle posters created from - you will need to look through the puzzles to find the ones you need. For example, #12 is a picture of a knight with holes in his armor -- the clue for "O Holy Night."
  • CD player, Handel's Messiah CD (or a way to play it from the cloud)
  • 10 fact cards for the carols (attached)
  • Words to the carols (attached) cut apart to distribute as needed (make extra, as some will be used as part of the journal page during Shepherd time)
  • 6 feet of banner or freezer paper and markers
  • Easel
  • Memento: musical note stickers (optional)
  • Shepherd time: glue sticks and blank pages

Advanced Preparation Requirements:
Students can sit on the floor or in chairs.

  • Set the 10 carol poster puzzles on the easel with four pieces of paper covering each poster (each piece of paper covers 1/4 of the poster).
  • Set up the keyboard with the music folder.
  • Have hand-outs of words ready to distribute when the students correctly identify a carol.
  • Put the long piece of paper for the banner on a table, if possible.


Opening- Welcome and Lesson Introduction

Greet the children and introduce yourself. Wear your name-tag. (Remember, you are interacting with a different group of students each week who may not know you.)

Explain the purpose of this workshop: “This morning we are going to play a game that identifies the names of songs we sing at Christmas. The songs often contain many names for Jesus. We are going to listen for those names and think about what they mean.”

Dig- Content and Reflection

Bible Story:

First, let’s read a few words written by the Prophet Isaiah. Does anyone know what a prophet is?
Listen, as we hear the word of God:
Read the scripture: Isaiah 7:14, 9:6-7a.
(Encourage the children to use their Bibles in looking up verses. Show the youngest children how you use the table of contents, but do not give them Bibles. Just read the verses to them. Help the other children look up Isaiah in the Table of Contents and find it in their Bibles.)

The Game:

Directions for playing NAME THAT CAROL:

  • Have students gather where they can see the easel and the carol puzzle. Have a blank banner on the floor or a table and some markers so that students can write the names Jesus was called in the carols.
  • The teacher says, “I bet you can name this carol in one note!”
  • Musician plays the first note of the carol! Students guess! (Only call on one or two children.)
  • Remove 1 of the four pieces of paper covering the puzzle poster! 1/4 of the puzzle is now revealed.
  • Most likely, the students will be stumped and you can continue…!!!
  • The teacher says, “I bet you can name this carol in two notes!” Play the first two notes and the students guess!
  • Remove another of the four pieces of paper covering the puzzle poster! 2/4 of the puzzle is now revealed.
  • The teacher says, “I bet you can name this carol in three notes!” Play three notes and the students guess!
  • Remove another of the four pieces of paper covering the puzzle poster! 3/4 of the puzzle is now revealed.
  • The teacher says, “I bet you can name this carol in four notes!” Play and the students guess!
  • Remove the last piece of paper and the whole puzzle is now revealed.
  • Using the four notes and the picture puzzle, students should be able to guess the name of the carol. (See the puzzle pictures at the website listed in the resources - they are plays on words. For example, there is a picture of a suit of armor with holes in it for “Oh Holy Night.")
  • If not, play the song until the carol is guessed.

When the carol title is guessed, the teacher should hand out the song sheet for that carol. Students should sing the first verse of the carol with accompaniment if possible, and then the teacher should tell the story behind the carol emphasizing the prophecy words that are a part of the carol. Have the students write on a banner the names for Jesus they heard in the carol they just sang. As the names are written on the banner, the teacher should ask the children what each name means. Sing the song again if necessary to remember what names were used for Jesus.


Pulling it all together (closing discussion):

Some famous Christmas and Easter music was written by a famous composer, George Frederic Handel. The work is called Messiah. Does anyone know what the name ‘Messiah’ means? Messiah means “someone anointed with Holy Oil.” Holy oil was used to show that someone was special and ‘anointed’ meant that the oil was poured over someone. Have you ever had your mom put suntan lotion on you? Well, that is kind of like an anointing. The oil is poured on your skin and rubbed in. Jesus was anointed with oil (not suntan oil but holy oil) because He was special and He had a special job to do. He had come to earth to save us from our sins.

All of the words in Messiah are from the Bible, many from Isaiah’s prophecies. Listen as I play one of the choruses (which is when the entire choir sings) and see if the words sound familiar. [Play the Number 12 Chorus, “For unto us a child is born.”]

That’s right! Our Bible memory verse from Isaiah is part of the words in  Messiah.

Review the memory verse:
Play the chorus from Messiah again if time permits. Have the children listen for names for Jesus and add them to the banner if the names are not already on it.

Shepherd Time:

Pass out the journal pages and pencils/markers. Suggestion: You may wish to give the children a sticker (perhaps a musical note) or some memento to paste in their journal as a reminder of today’s activity.
Do you have a favorite carol of the ones we sang? [Review the names again, if necessary.] Choose one you would like to illustrate. I will give you a copy of the words to glue to your journal page. (If your favorite is one we did not sing, you may illustrate it too, but you will have to write the words yourself or dictate them to me.)

This is meant to be a time of reflection and introspection. Writing about faith helps clarify lessons. The journal pages will be saved and given to the children at the end of the school year.

You may want to provide an extra activity or worksheet for children who finish their journals quickly, such as coloring sheets, crossword puzzles, word searches, games.


Before class ends, ask the students to stop journaling for a moment and sit quietly for prayer so they can leave when their parents arrive. Allow them to finish journaling afterwards.

Closing prayer:
Dear Lord, You are our King, You are our Counselor, You are Wonderful, You are the Prince of Peace, You are the Messiah, You are the Promised One, You are the Christ, and You love all of us so much that you would not only be born for us, but you would die for us, too. Thank you God for the awesome gift of your Son. In Jesus' name, AMEN.

Lesson Adjustments for Younger Children:

You will need to decide how best to adjust the lesson for older and younger students. Keep the children active and involved in the activities. Do what works for you and the children. If needed for the younger children, the Workshop Leader can be the person to write the names for Jesus on the banner with bubble letters, and the children can then decorate the letters or color them in if time allows.


Puzzle posters are from

Music and words to the carols are from Christmastime…for Singing, Brentwood Publishing, © 1981

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.

A lesson written by Judy McIntyre from: River Community Church, Prairieville, LA
Copyright Judy McIntyre. Permission granted to freely distribute and use, provided the copyright message is included.

A representative of reformatted this post to improve readability


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