Lesson 2 – The Box Lid… The Birth of Jesus
If you have a puzzle at home, use the box lid and some of the corner and edge pieces as object lessons. These objects can be used for the next several lessons.
This week we’re going to discuss the birth of Jesus. Even though the story is simple and familiar, the implications of it for Jesus’ identity are complex and nuanced. Theologians (people who study religion professionally) use technical words like “incarnation” (God’s Son being birthed in human flesh) and “divinity” (the defining attributes of God) when describing this event. Since these words won’t make any sense to our kids, we need to carefully explain this event in a way that helps our children have a correct understanding of Jesus – in turn, this will lead to a correct understanding of God, His Father. So, read and re-read through this lesson as many times as is necessary to teach your children with confidence. And, if you need some additional help or clarification, feel free to email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last week we learned that the Bible is a story mosaic and that each of the smaller story “pictures” (or books) brings greater detail to the bigger picture of God’s Son, Jesus, and His love for us. Imagine that the picture of Jesus was a puzzle. One of the first things we would do in preparation of putting it together is place the box lid in a place where it could easily be seen by everyone working on it. The picture on the box lid is very important because it helps us make sense of the detail and patterns we see in the individual puzzle pieces. In the case of the Bible, the box lid picture of Jesus is recorded in the Gospels – which means “good news.” The Gospels are the first four books of the New Testament – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Each of these books record the life of Jesus from a different point of view.
Now that we know the completed puzzle is a picture of God’s Son, we need to look for the corner and edge pieces – these are the Gospel stories and teachings of Jesus that define a correct understanding of Him and His life. This is important because the only way we can come to know and understand God the Father (the goal and purpose of life) is through a correct and personal understanding of His Son, Jesus. God is not a human like us, so we struggle to understand and relate to a person that is completely different. His Son, Jesus, however, was born a human like us, but at the same time shares those qualities that make His Father God, or “divine” (“divinity” is the fancy word that describes all of the qualities or attributes that we use to speak of and understand God – like, “all-powerful” and “all-knowing”). So, in the Gospels we see the human person Jesus living and teaching in divine or God-like ways, and as a result we know what the Father is like and how the Father feels about and loves us. If we know and understand the Son, then we can know and understand His Father.
Jesus’ birth into this world is one the “corner pieces” of our puzzle picture, and the “good news” of God’s love for us. His birth is unique in human history, and it cannot be fully understood with human logic – it is one of God’s mysteries. God chose a very special woman to be Jesus’ mother. Her name was Mary, and God sent an angel, named Gabriel, to tell her that she was pregnant with His Son. At the same time, God sent an angel to Joseph, the man to whom Mary was engaged, and told him too. Both angels announced that the child to be born of Mary was going to be the person whom the prophets wrote about long ago (you can review with your children the third reading from last week – Isaiah 7:14 – I’ll let you figure out the best way of explaining virginity). This is an example of the story mosaic where one of the Old Testament stories brings greater detail to the person of Jesus.
Jesus’ step-father, Joseph, was a descendant in the line of King David, and this relationship gave Jesus the rightful title of “King of Israel” (the place where He was born and lived). Wise men from the East” (men who studied the stars) followed a special star to the place where Jesus was born, and they brought Him gifts that would normally be given only to a king – gold and incense. His “kingly” birth was also announced by a large host of angels to the shepherds in the fields, watching their sheep on the night Jesus was born. All of these miraculous events and stories were recorded in the Gospels to show that Jesus was the loving King, written about long ago, Who was born to save His people (“Messiah” is the title given to the One who comes to save His people – we will discuss later from what the Messiah saves His people).
As we’ve already discussed, Jesus was not only born the King of Israel, He was also born the Son of God. We see this most clearly in the story of Gabriel’s angelic announcement to Mary (called the “annunciation“). As God’s Son, Jesus mission is to reveal His heavenly Father to the world. At His circumcision (a custom that physically marks men as part of the Israelite community), a man named Simeon, who loved God, said that Jesus was “a light to reveal God.” This sounds just like the third reading from last week – Isaiah 9:2. When God is perfectly revealed by His Son, Jesus, we discover how much He really loves us.
Note: All of the scriptural compilations I list in this blog are from the New Living Translation (NLT). I purposely left the verse numbers in the text so that your children would be familiar with the “look” of the Bible. Please explain to them that chapters and verses are a way of “breaking down” the Bible into smaller reading sections. Also, the “Notes” are for your understanding – you can choose to share them with your children if you wish.
It’s also a good practice, with each reading, to have your children recite, in order, the biblical books as they learn them. This will help them gain confidence in “handling” the Bible.
Day #1 – Luke 1:26-55
26 … God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee,27 to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David [the King of Israel].28 Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”
29 Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean.30 “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God!31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus.32 He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David.33 And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”
34 Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”
35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God.36 What’s more, your relative Elizabeth [Mary’s cousin] has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month.37 For nothing is impossible with God.”
38 Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.
39 A few days later Mary hurried to the hill country of Judea, to the town40 where Zechariah [Elizabeth’s husband] lived. She entered the house and greeted Elizabeth.41 At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
42 Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed.43 Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me?44 When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy.45 You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.”
46 Mary responded,
“Oh, how my soul praises the Lord.
47 How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!
48 For he took notice of his lowly servant girl,
and from now on all generations will call me blessed.
49 For the Mighty One is holy,
and he has done great things for me.
50 He shows mercy from generation to generation
to all who fear him.
51 His mighty arm has done tremendous things!
He has scattered the proud and haughty [arrogant] ones.
52 He has brought down princes from their thrones
and exalted the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away with empty hands.
54 He has helped his servant Israel
and remembered to be merciful.
55 For he made this promise to our ancestors,
to Abraham and his children forever.”
Day #2 – Luke 2:1-20
1 At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire.2 (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.)3 All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census.4 And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee.5 He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant.
6 And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born.7 She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.
8 That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep.9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified,10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in highest heaven,
and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”
15 When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger.17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child.18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished,19 but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.
Day #3 – Matthew 1:18-2:11
1:18 This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit.19 Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.
20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit.21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
22 All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:
23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child!
She will give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel,*
which means ‘God is with us.'”
24 When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife.25 But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus.
2:1 Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking,2 “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.”
9… And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was.10 When they saw the star, they were filled with joy!11 They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Day #4 – Luke 2:21-34
21 Eight days later, when the baby was circumcised, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel even before he was conceived.
22 Then it was time for their purification offering, as required by the law of Moses after the birth of a child; so his parents took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord.23 The law of the Lord says, “If a woman’s first child is a boy, he must be dedicated to the LORD.”24 So they offered the sacrifice required in the law of the Lord—”either a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”
25 At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him26 and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.27 That day the Spirit led him to the Temple. So when Mary and Joseph came to present the baby Jesus to the Lord as the law required,28 Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying,
29 “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace,
as you have promised.
30 I have seen your salvation,
31 which you have prepared for all people.
32 He is a light to reveal God to the nations,
and he is the glory of your people Israel!”
33 Jesus’ parents were amazed at what was being said about him.34 Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother, “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, but he will be a joy to many others. He has been sent as a sign from God…”