>>>The (Giving) Spirit of Christmas

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1 >>>The (Giving) Spirit of Christmas Lesson Objective>> To help students understand that Christmas is more about a spirit of giving than receiving, and that this concept goes way beyond gifts. Scripture Focus>> Luke 1:26-38; 2:1-15, Matthew 2:7-11 Overview>> The arrival of the Christmas season is hard to ignore. The rush to let people know it s that time of year is ushered in with decorations, seasonal commercials, a blitz of specialty products, and that shopper s nirvana known as Black Friday. Your students know the drill when it comes to Christmas. The spiritual part is the Bible stories, and church musicals and the commercial part is the wish lists and the tinsel. This year don t let your students pass off the birth of Christ as just a story from the Bible. Lead students to see that the idea of a giving spirit is one of the keys to finding the real meaning of Christmas. This lesson will help you do just that. Jump In Title: To Give Is Better... Maybe Goal: To help students think about their attitudes toward giving and receiving. Set- Up: You ll need enough slips of paper and pens for every student to write his or her name. You ll need some kind of container to put the names in. You ll also need to pre- select three different gifts and wrap them. These gifts can be anything from completely nonsensical items (leftover office supplies, food items, your business cards, etc.) to gift cards from itunes or Starbucks. Whatever you choose, make sure the contents are wrapped in a way that they can t be seen from the outside. Display the gifts where all students can see them. FIRST, have each student write his or her name on a slip of paper. Then, collect the slips of paper and put them in whatever container you ve provided. (If you re really in the spirit, you ll have a nicely wrapped Christmas box or a Santa hat.) NEXT, draw three volunteers from the names to come to the front of wherever you re meeting. (Keep the hat and the remaining names handy, as you ll need them in a moment.) Direct students attention to the gifts and explain to your three contestants that it s their lucky day; by being selected, they get the opportunity to select one of the three gifts. Instruct the first student whose name you drew to choose any gift he or she wants from the gifts you ve displayed. Once he or she has chosen, allow the second and then the third student to do the same. THEN, when all have chosen, explain that, as you all know, Christmas is a time of receiving gifts. But, Christmas is also a time of giving gifts. Instruct each contestant to draw a name from the hat. Then, instruct them to give their presents to the student whose name they drew. Allow the recipients to open their gifts. NEXT, lead students in a brief discussion. Ask something like: (Addressed to the contestants) What did it feel like when you thought you were getting a gift? What did it feel like when you had to give it up? If you had to make a list of the things you re looking forward to getting at Christmas, and the things you re looking forward to giving, which would be the longer list? 2011 youthministry360 youthministry360.com 2

2 Why is it often easier for us to get more excited about what we re getting than what we re giving? FINALLY, explain that in this lesson you ll be looking at the things that were given on the first Christmas. Explain that you will all be challenged to consider how you can experience the true joy of Christmas through focusing on giving instead of receiving this Christmas. The Big Idea Title: The Christmas Gifts Goal: To help your students look at what was given when Jesus was born in Bethlehem and to understand how giving affects our attitudes and our Christ- like nature. Set- Up: Provide a copy of the Student Guide and a pen or pencil for each student. Instruct students to turn to Luke 1 in their Bibles. While they re finding the chapter, distribute copies of the Student Guide and provide some brief context for the passages you ll be reading. The books of Matthew and Luke both bear the names of the men who wrote them. Matthew was a tax collector who left everything when Jesus called him to be one of His disciples. His book seeks to prove that Jesus actually was the Messiah promised in the Old Testament. Luke was a medical doctor who became a believer during Paul s first missionary journey. Luke was not a Jew but rather a Gentile. Working from his medical background, Luke presents the human side of Jesus in the gospel of Luke then tells of the beginnings of the early church in his second book, Acts. FIRST, instruct students to turn to Luke 1:26-38, and then read or have a student read the verses. Explain that an angel told Mary that even though she was a virgin, she would conceive and give birth to the Son of God. Tell the students that this is a very important part of the story of the birth of Christ. Mary was engaged to Joseph but was a virgin. Explain that God caused her to become pregnant with His only Son. Ask students the following questions: Mary s response was one of great uncertainty. Put yourself in her shoes. Can you imagine what she must have felt like? Do you think she was more scared or excited? Have you ever had something happen to you and later realize it was really an incredible gift from God? (Give students time to think; consider sharing an experience from your life.) o How did you respond? How did Mary ultimately respond? Answer: vs. 38, though she could not have known all that this announcement would imply, she responded in faith, expressing her faith and trust in God and His plan. THEN, direct students attention to their Student Guides. Explain that through looking in the Bible, you ll find three gifts that were given when Christ was born. Say something like: God gave the most important gift in the form of His son, Jesus. While people in the Old Testament had to relate to God with a certain sense of personal detachment, Jesus was God in the form of a living, human being who walked among His people. Instruct students to write the word PRESENCE in the blank on the first teaching point on their Student Guide youthministry360 youthministry360.com 3

3 NEXT, read or have a volunteer read Luke 2:1-15. Explain to students that for the purpose of this lesson, you want to focus on vs Remind students that it was nighttime when the angels appeared. Surrounded by God s glory, their presence probably lit up the sky and frightened the shepherds. Consider asking the students questions similar to the following: Shepherds were one of the lower rungs of the Jerusalem social ladder. Think for a second about the way God works. Why does it make sense for the shepherds to be some of the first to know about Christ s birth? Why not tell the religious rulers and the leaders? o Answer: If you look at Jesus teaching throughout the Gospels, you see that God s Kingdom flips conventional wisdom. The first are last. The weak are first. The first witnesses to Jesus first miracle were servants. He chose His disciples from those least likely to lead a religious movement. Jesus engaged the sick and the outcast. It only makes sense to tell shepherds! The Kingdom of God values the things the world doesn t. Put yourself in the shepherd s shoes. What must it have been like to see what they saw? What are some words that come to mind when you think about what it must have been like? o Answer: Answers will vary Do you think the expressions of the angels themselves- - the amazing praise, the music, the visual in the sky- - was a gift to the shepherds? Can you think of some examples of how your expressions- - your outward attitude, countenance, words, and actions- - can be a gift to people this Christmas season? Let s list some. o Answer: Answers will vary, but might include something like resisting the temptation to get wrapped up in too much materialism or commercialism; looking for opportunities to engage people in a positive way; carrying bags or groceries for an elderly individual; helping your mom or dad run Christmas errands; planning a Christmas get- together for your friends, and so on. Want about the content of the angels message? Essentially, they were sharing the Gospel, or, the Good News about the birth of Christ. As you go throughout this Christmas season, can you think of some places or situations where you might also be someone who gives the gift of the good news of Christ? (Hint: It doesn t have to just be with words!) o Answer: Answers will vary though could include something like inviting friends to your church s or youth group s Christmas event(s), volunteering your time and/or money for a charity or good cause, looking for opportunities to engage your friends and/or neighbors in discussions about Christ (after all, Christmas may be one of the easiest times to do this!), and so on. When you ve finished this discussion, direct students attention to the second teaching point on the Student Guide. Instruct students to write the words THE GOOD NEWS and EXPRESSIONS in the respective blanks on the second teaching point. NEXT, read or have a volunteer read Matthew 2:7-11. Provide some background by reminding your students that King Herod was appointed by the Roman government to oversee Judea. He had no intention of honoring the birth of the King of the Jews and planned to do something that was common in that day kill anyone who might one day challenge the throne. Also, you may want to remind students that the wise men were possibly kings from the east who were experts in astronomy. That explains why they were compelled to find Jesus when they saw the unusual star in the eastern sky. Explain to students that the three gifts the wise men gave Jesus can serve to remind us of different aspects of Jesus character. Lead students through the following brief discussion. Say something like: Gold was a valuable commodity in Jesus day just as it is now. Gold was owned by the wealthy and given as gifts to the wealthy and the powerful. Think about the roles Jesus plays. What aspect of Jesus identity does the gold help remind us of? 2011 youthministry360 youthministry360.com 4

4 o Answer: The gold helps remind us of Jesus royal nature. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the firstborn over all creation (Col. 1:15). Frankincense is a resin that comes from a tree. People in biblical times believed the burning of Frankincense oil during worship would carry their prayers to Heaven. What aspect of Jesus identity might the Frankincense help remind us of? o Answer: Frankincense serves as a reminder of the role that Jesus would assume as our High Priest in connecting us to God (Heb. 9:11-15). Myrrh is also a tree resin that hardens and is turned into powder or perfume. Myrrh was used to treat wounds and was also a burial spice. Remember, it was used when Jesus body was prepared after His death on the cross. Last one: what aspect of Jesus life does the gift of myrrh remind you of? o Answer: Symbolized Jesus eventual death on the cross for our sins. NEXT, direct their attention to the third teaching point on their Student Guide and fill in the blank with the word SYMBOLIZED. FINALLY, ask if your students can now see the theme of giving that runs through the Christmas story: The wise men gave valuable gifts, the angels gave praise and good news, and God gave us His only Son. Explain that one of the main expressions of the Christmas spirit is the expression of giving. Remind students that there is nothing wrong with receiving gifts or even wanting certain things. But the attitude that will help them be more like Christ is the attitude of giving. Wrap Up Title: The Giving List Goal: The goal is to help your students rethink Christmas and to think of some ways they express their faith and their thanks to God by giving at this time of year. Set- Up: The students will use the bottom of their Student Guide to complete this activity. If you have a dry erase board you can use it to write down ideas the students have for giving. FIRST, direct students attention to the bottom of their Student Guide to the picture of the Christmas Tree. Remind them of the discussion you had earlier where you considered some practical ways of giving this Christmas season. Explain to them that this is their chance to own three of these ideas. THEN, instruct students to think in terms of the three kinds of gifts expressed in the passages you read. Explain the kinds of gifts given as follows: First, just as God gave His son Jesus to be physically present with us, what is one thing you can give that would include physical involvement? o (Examples may include helping serve a Christmas meal at a shelter, volunteering to ring a bell for the Salvation Army, delivering gifts for organizations, visiting nursing homes, etc.) Next, just as the angels were messengers of the good news of Christ, what is one way you can share the love of Christ with someone this Christmas? o (Refer back to your earlier discussion for some examples.) 2011 youthministry360 youthministry360.com 5

5 Finally, just as the wise men gave gifts to Jesus, what is one way you can give to help meet needs at Christmas? (Ideas include sponsoring a child through an Angel Tree, give to any special offerings your church may have at Christmas, give through programs at local stores, etc.) Then, allow them a few moments to write down three tangible ways they will give of themselves this Christmas season. When you ve allowed a few minutes for students to brainstorm, have them share some of their responses with the group. Re- direct any students who haven t identified practical or doable responses. Challenge students to follow through on these as a way of showing their love and thanks to God. FINALLY, remind students that the gift of giving is something that can be done all year long. Encourage them to always be thinking about giving, and to do so out of their love for God. Close with prayer, asking God to help the students find ways to give and for God to bless them through their giving youthministry360 youthministry360.com 6

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