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Shepherds Learn about Jesus

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Imagine (K-1)Year 1Unit 3 (Imagine Meeting Jesus)Session 2

Shepherds Learn about Jesus

The shepherds learned that Jesus the Savior was born in Bethlehem.
Faith Nurture Goals
  • Express excitement and eagerness to learn more about Jesus.
  • Imagine how the shepherds reacted to the angels' appearance.
  • Wonder how the shepherds felt when they found baby Jesus.
  • Thank God for the birth of Jesus.
Memory Challenge

Leader Reflection

Preparing to Tell God's Story

We're so used to hearing "In those days Caesar Augustus . . ." that it doesn't surprise us that this story, known around the world, would begin with a little history lesson.

Why start with Caesar Augustus and Quirinius? Luke's first point in telling the story is to anchor it in time and history, which is his way of saying, "This is not a fairy tale, folks. God really did break into our world." And it explains, of course, what a family from Nazareth is doing in Bethlehem. And then there's "the city of David." Luke is directing us into a very important element of the story of God in the Bible. The reader is supposed to remember that great promise God made to David (2 Samuel 7)---that his descendant would sit on the throne forever. God is now fulfilling age-old promises, and the promise to David is only one of them.

Strangely, the birth story itself is the shortest part. Jesus is born, wrapped in cloth, and laid in a manger. A what? That would be the first-time reader's response. There was no room, Luke explains. The Lord of glory is born in a stable, the Creator of all is laid in a feeding trough. There is no room for God's Son in the city of David.

As soon as the baby is born and laid to rest, in just one sentence Luke turns our focus to the fields outside Bethlehem. Shepherds were in the fields watching their flocks. Why focus on shepherds when God has just arrived in Bethlehem? It was the city of David, the shepherd-king; but shepherds were on the lower rungs of Jewish society in that time. If heaven were going to make an angelic birth announcement, you would think the message should go to Caesar's palace, or at least to the high priest in Jerusalem. No, Luke says, in ways already signaled by Mary's song in chapter 1, Jesus has come to save sinners, to be with the poor and lowly.

So the angels sing their glorious oratorio while the sleepy shepherds cringe in fear. While Caesar sleeps or parties, and the high priest in Jerusalem goes about business as usual, the shepherds rush off to Bethlehem to see. What a scene! Scruffy shepherds peering in on this young couple far from home, their baby wrapped in homespun cloth and lying in a manger.

Luke closes the story with two responses: Mary's pondering and the shepherds joyfully spreading the story. And the story invites us to do both---to ponder the mystery of the Word become flesh, God with a bellybutton, and to sing with contagious joy about the Savior who has come to join the human race.

  • Do you imagine the innkeeper as mean and gruff or concerned to do what he can?

  • Why does Luke spend so little time with Mary and Joseph and the birth of Jesus?

  • What do you ponder with Mary as you read this story again?

  • Mary quietly “ponders” and the shepherds run about with joy, telling everyone. Encourage both kinds of responses in the children. Jesus’ birth is an exciting event, one that also invites a quiet, prayerful response of wonder.

  • Some children have learned that “the little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes.” This is a good time to emphasize that this child is God’s Son, but he is also fully human. You can’t explain the mystery, but you might color the story with the reality of God’s Son as a bawling infant with healthy bowels and hungry lips.


Step 1 Gathering for God's Story

  • music smart
  • picture smart
  • word smart

Before children arrive, print and cut today’s story symbol to hang as an ornament on the Christmas tree at the appropriate time.

Welcome kids by name as they enter. Gather everyone around you in a circle and begin your time by worshiping together as you sing “Tell It.” When you are done, ask if anyone shared the good news of Jesus’ birth this past week. Did anyone give his or her Christmas card away? Encourage those who did to tell about it. 

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