Enjoy this Christmas lesson plan, suitable for young people in grades 7–8.
The young people will be able to
Student Handout A (The Incarnation)
Student Handout B (Word Search)
Student Handout C (Prayer Service)
Family Handout (The Birth of Jesus)
Have the young people meet with partners and invite each person to share his or her favorite Christmas experiences. If you are doing this session before Christmas, ask the young people to share what kind of Christmas they hope to have. If this is taking place after Christmas, invite them to share how they spent Christmas day in the past. After a number of them have shared, say: Christmas is a feast with many family customs associated with it. But it is much more than a time to give gifts, eat special foods, and celebrate the birth of Jesus over 2,000 years ago. We will be discussing the meaning of Christmas today.
Have the young people take out their Bibles and read John 1:1–5, 9–14 silently. Tell them that this is the Gospel that is read at Mass on Christmas day. After they have finished, ask them why they think the Church would use this as the reading for Christmas. (The reading is about how Jesus was always God and then became human as well.)
Write the word communication on the board. Ask the young people to identify different forms of communication. (spoken and written word, music, sign language, body language) Invite a volunteer to write these ideas on the board under the heading communication.
Say: We have many ways we communicate with one another and many tools to help us express ourselves. Review the forms of communication listed on the board, and identify the tools used to aid each form of communication. Spoken word, for example, is aided by tools such as the telephone and the microphone; tools used to help us communicate with the written word include pen and paper, computer word-processing software, e-mail, and text messaging.
Say: It’s interesting that each form of communication has its particular usefulness. Here’s what I mean. Sometimes we find that we prefer to write someone a letter rather than talk to them. In a letter our words can be saved and read over again. Sometimes this is important. Other times, when we wish to communicate with a large number of people quickly, the convenience and speed of e-mail is preferred. When a person needs an answer to a question immediately, however, he or she might choose to pick up the telephone or send a text message.
Say: Just as we have many ways to communicate with one another, God has communicated with his people in a variety of ways. All Scripture is God’s communication to us, which is why we call it the Word of God.
Explain that in Scripture, we learn that God has spoken with his people in a variety of ways. Ask the young people to provide different examples of how God spoke to his people. (He spoke to Moses from a burning bush. He communicated to Mary through an angel.) The Gospel on Christmas also talks about the Word of God.
Then explain the two ways the Word of God is revealed to us in this Gospel reading. Say: One way this Gospel tells us that God communicates with us is in the first line of the reading. How did this Gospel begin? Where else in the Bible do we hear these words? (In Genesis, when God created the world.) One way the Word of God is revealed to us is in the creation of the world.
Ask: How does the Gospel explain the second way that the Word is revealed to us? (The Word became flesh.) How does the Word become flesh? (The Word becomes flesh in the person of Jesus.) What does this Scripture tell us was revealed to us in Jesus? (the glory of God; Jesus reveals to us God himself.)
Pass out Student Handout A, The Incarnation, and ask the young people to read it silently. Lead a discussion of the article by asking the following questions.
Pass out Student Handout B, Word Search. Have the young people complete the word search and find the hidden message.
When everyone has finished the word search, pass out Student Handout C, Prayer Service, and lead the young people in prayer. Chose one person to read John 1:1–5, 9–14. Allow a few moments for silent reflection after it is read. Then lead the young people in a choral profession of faith in the Incarnation.
Print out the Family Handout, The Birth of Jesus, and have the young people take it home to share with their families.
In a prayer for the King of Israel in Psalm 72:10, we read,
"May the kings of Tarshish and the islands bring tribute,
the kings of Arabia and Seba offer gifts."
This Old Testament text led to the traditional interpretation of the Magi as kings. While the Magi are never numbered as three in Matthew's account, the fact that three gifts were offered suggests three gift bearers. Isaiah describes the restoration of Israel after the exile using these words:
"Caravans of camels shall fill you,
dromedaries from Midian and Ephah;
All from Sheba shall come
bearing gold and frankincense." (Isaiah 60:6)
The Church interprets these words as describing the Epiphany of Jesus to the world through the Magi. Gold is the most precious of metals, most fitting for a king. Frankincense (incense) was offered by the priests in the temple. Myrrh is a spice or perfume and was used to prepare bodies for burial.
In The Shepherd’s Story, children will discover the true meaning of Christmas as told through a classic and beloved rhyme scheme. Resources to accompany this beautifully illustrated book are available at www.shepherdsstory.com, including an activity pack with a maze, a coloring page, Christmas cards to share, and more.