Enjoy this Christmas lesson plan, suitable for young people in grades 7–8.
The young people will be able to
discuss the mystery of the Incarnation and how Jesus is both God and human.
consider the significance of the Incarnation to our lives as Christians.
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.
Why was God willing to become human? (He was willing to become human because of his love. He wanted to save us from sin.)
How did we lose our likeness to God? (through sin)
What was the only way our likeness to God could be restored? (God had to become human.)
Was Jesus God pretending to be human? (No, he took on our human nature without losing his divine nature.)
What does this mean that God took on our human nature? (Jesus was fully human. He got hungry, thirsty, tired, angry, and felt pain.)
So Jesus is just like us? (Yes, he is like us in everything except sin.)
What does the Incarnation mean to us? (Through the Incarnation Jesus gave us back our dignity. We can live in God’s image.)
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.
Enriching the Faith Experience
Have the young people study the lyrics of popular religious Christmas carols and compare them with the Gospel accounts of the birth of Jesus in the first two chapters of Matthew and Luke. Direct them to make a list of the carols and Scripture references that match.
Let each young person prepare a scrapbook to use during the Christmas holidays. Titles for pages may include Advent Events, Christmas Preparations, Family Favorites (which could include favorite cards, cookie recipes, carols, ornaments, and gifts for each member of the family), Christmas Day, What Christmas Means to Me, How Jesus Comes Through Others. Allow room on the pages for text, photos, Christmas cards, and drawings.
Research Christmas customs of other countries and cultures.
Suggest that the young people take the initiative in organizing a special activity to be shared with their family during the Christmas season. They might prepare a special dessert for the family to share or propose a family service day.
It is a custom in Central America for families to make their own Nativity scene. Each family member makes a figure out of clay, paper, or cardboard, or provides a store-bought one. The figures of the Christ Child, Mary, and Joseph are always made first. However, the Christ Child is always added last, on Christmas Eve. Then figures from the Old and New Testaments are added. Sometimes figures representing the family members themselves are made, as well as figures for the animals. Introduce this custom to the young people and share this tradition as a class, or encourage them to share this custom with their families.