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This Christmas Bible study for kids is the first in a series of Bible lessons designed to encourage children, youth and even us adults to discover the wonder of Christmas anew using our five senses.
These also correspond with the themes for the Advent Season - hope, love, joy and peace. The fifth lesson focuses on what's next - the Wise Men.
Sometimes the sense of wonder can be found again when we allow ourselves to "wonder." Have you ever wondered about Zechariah and Elizabeth?
We tend to jump ahead straight to the manger, but when we do, we are missing a great lesson experienced by two faithful believers who were a part of the Christmas story!
Or use their imaginations!
Have everyone close their eyes again while you ring some jingle bells. Ask what they think they heard and how this made them feel. What things did the sound make them think of?
Take time to talk about how many times bells are used to announce someone or something coming. Horses may have sleigh bells we can hear before we see them. A door bell is used to let us know someone has come to our door.
Sing a round of "Jingle Bells" to add to the Christmas spirit and help this lesson stick in kids' memory.
When we hear bells this Christmas season, let them remind us of the great announcement of the hope God sent even before that first Christmas night.
In the Gospel of Luke we find the story of Christmas didn't begin in the manger, a lot happened before that special night.
The Hebrew people had been waiting for a Savior for hundreds of years. It had been about 400 years since the last prophet had spoken for God.
[Have kids turn back to find the last book of the Old Testament to find this prophets name - Malachi.]
Luke begins his telling of the Christmas story with the good news that a new prophet would come to make the way for the long-awaited Savior.
Read Luke 1:5-7.
"In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old."
Have you ever had to wait on something and almost want to just give up hope? Was waiting hard? Zechariah and Elizabeth knew all about waiting; they learned how God always keeps His promises.
We can learn that even in the wait, God's got this!
Read the following verses out loud, but stop before saying John's name and allow the group to announce the name - "John." Then clarify that this was John the Baptist.
"Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.
11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John."
One of the longest waits is the nine months before a baby is born. There is nothing to be done to hurry it along, but in that time of waiting, there is much taking place and there is the hope of what is to come.
Allow kids to discuss some of the things that are done or prepared as a family waits for a baby to be born.
Zechariah and Elizabeth must have been busy getting ready for the birth of their baby. They weren't just sitting around and neither was God!
Zechariah and Elizabeth had waited years to become parents; it must have seemed like such a long wait...much longer than the nine months they waited for him to be born.
The length of time they waited was no surprise to God; He had already been at work hundreds of years preparing for this time. We can know that even in the wait, God is at work.
In the Old Testament God spoke through prophets. Many times He sent them to give an announcement of hope.
In that last book of the Old Testament, the one God had Malachi write about 400 years before the birth of Zechariah's and Elizabeth's son, it says -
"I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before Me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to His temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come," says the Lord Almighty." (Malachi 3:1, NIV)
Even about 400 years before that, the prophet Isaiah wrote about their son too -
"A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God." Isaiah 40:3
57 "When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. 58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy.
59 On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, 60 but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.”
61 They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.”
62 Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. 63 He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God. 65 All the neighbors were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. 66 Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him."
John's birth was like bells ringing; he had come to announce an even greater promise, a promise of hope!
The Jewish people were looking and waiting for a future hope - the promise of the Messiah.
Both Messiah (Hebrew) and Christ (Greek) refer to the "the anointed or chosen one." If we listen to God's announcements for the coming of this promised one, we will see how they point to Jesus.
God pointed some of these prophecies towards Jesus' birth, such as:
These are only two...Jesus fulfilled over 300 specific prophecies given about the Messiah in the Old Testament!
John was sent as a witness to announce Jesus as the promised Messiah, God's gift of hope!
Hear those bells ringing?!
"There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.
9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to phis own,2 and his own people3 did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, the gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God."
In times of waiting in our lives, we can trust God's plan and that He is at work. Nothing takes God by surprise.
A great deal took place that first Christmas even before Jesus was born. There was great expectation and probably also fear of the unknown for those who lived it.
This Christmas may we keep our eyes and hearts open with great expectation of all God has ahead of us even to the second coming of Christ. The world may seem scary, but God is in control and can be trusted with it all.
Jesus said -
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going."5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really know me, you will know[b] my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14:1-7)
“I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).
The complete story of John the Baptist is a whole other lesson, but do have the group recall how the prophecies in the Old Testament came to be exactly as promised. God had a plan and God had prepared; even in the wait, much was taking place that could not be seen.
God gave us the promise of hope in Jesus for salvation and a future hope of forever with Him. John came as a witness to ring out the good news of Jesus coming as the Lamb of God to save the world.
© Copyright 2022 Susan Smart
Give each child a jingle bell to hold (unless their age could cause it to be a choking hazard) and a piece of red ribbon. Tell them as they thread the ribbon through the bell's loop to pray and thank God for all He has promised and the hope He gives us in Jesus.
Tell them to continue silently praying, and when they are finished to ring their bell of hope. Encourage them to hang their jingle bells somewhere as a reminder of God's announcement of hope during the Christmas season and on into the New Year.
Next Christmas Bible study for kids in this series - Light of the World
Find the full series here - "Packing Up Our Christmas Senses"
Another Christmas Bible study series - Renewing the Wonder of Christmas.
These lessons look at Christmas through the eyes of those who were there the first Christmas and include activities for kids, youth & adults.
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