A brief overview for Sunday School teachers and Bible study leaders, of Lifeway’s “Explore the Bible” lesson of Luke 2:1-15, “You Will Find,” for Sunday, Dec. 25, 2022.
A video version of this overview is available at:
A lot of churches are NOT having Sunday School on Christmas Day, Dec. 25 (our church, FBC Angleton is not) but I know some of you are, so I wanted to a least get out a little something to help you if you are teaching class on Christmas Sunday.
INTRO: One way you could begin Sunday’s lesson would be to ask your group to share any interesting stories they have/or that they have heard from friends, about special or unusual circumstances around the birth of a child.
For EX: when we were living in Norman, OK, in 2013, we were up at the hospital just off of I-35 with our daughter Libby, and they had just told us that she had given birth to our first grand daughter. Moments later the tornado sirens went off, and they quickly evacuated the floor we were on. They put Libby and her baby in a storm proof room, and sent the rest of us to the basement, where people from the community gathered as well. We were all crowded together when we heard over the loudspeaker: “Prepare for impact!” It was a scary time for many of us. Thankfully the tornado, which was coming right at the hospital, took a last-minute turn away. But that is one baby delivery we will never forget — for many reasons.
You are welcome to share that story if you like (you can say this happened to a pastor you know!) or probably you, or some class members have a story about some special circumstances in association with the birth of a child. But when you’ve finished the stories, then say something like: “But no birth was accompanied with more exceptional circumstances than the birth of Jesus that we are celebrating today …” and get into the lesson in Luke 2.
An alternative introduction might be to get class members to share the most creative birth announcement they had ever seen.
For example: Back in 2012, our daughter and her husband came back from college and they brought my wife a bag of some things — and as Cheryl was taking them out of the bag, there was baby bib in it, that said on it: “Worth the wait” — and we looked at them, and we were like, “Are you saying you’re having a baby?!” — that was our very first grandbaby!
Now we have NINE grandbabies, and the announcements have come in various ways: our son and his wife are creative, and they had a word game, and a series of pictures, and so on.
Birth announcements have become a bigger deal these days:And a birth IS a big deal to be celebrated.
SO, you might start class by asking: ??? What’s the most creative birth announcement you have ever seen??? Then after you talk about that for a bit, you could say: JESUS’ “birth announcement” was, fittingly, a big deal: angels from heaven, proclaiming the birth of the King! That’s what this week’s lesson is about.
Now, I know Luke 2 is a very familiar passage for many of us, but there are some important truths here that we can bring out in the lesson this week. Some of them I might use this week would be:
I. The historical nature of Jesus’ birth.
Notice the historical figures, and locations that are mentioned in this text.
(You can point these out, OR have your class scan the verses and point out: “What all historical figures/locations do you see here?”
These would include: Caesar Augustus, the real Caesar of Rome; Quirinius, the governor of Syria — and history and archeology does tell us there WAS such a man! History also tells us there Was a census taken in those days! And ;4 the real cities of Galilee, Nazareth, the region of Judea, the town of Bethlehem — these are all REAL places that you can visit today.)
Then = This all just emphasizes the REAL nature of the Gospel of Jesus. Christianity is not a “myth.” A “myth” is a story that is not rooted in real historical fact. Christianity is not a “myth.” These are real people, in real places — and this story REALLY happened! These names and places emphasize that.
Verse 7 talks about how when Mary & Jospeh got to Bethlehem, there was, infamously, “No room for them in the inn”
There’s a very interesting sermon by Martin Luther, the German pastor from the 1500s who kicked off the Reformation and brought justification by grace through faith back to the forefront. He was preaching a message on Joseph & Mary & the baby Jesus, and how no one took them in he says:
“The pictures always show Mary riding on a donkey, but there’s no donkey in the Gospels. She who might have gone in a golden chariot, with angels to attend her, went on foot, and trudged her weight across the snow of the Galilean and the Judean hills. And as they approached Bethlehem, Joseph was saying, “Oh, it will be all right. Soon we’ll be among relatives and we can borrow everything.” A fine idea that was!
Her time came as they were drawing near, and Joseph sought room for them in the inn. But there was no room in the inn. Of course there was! There was all the room in the inn, but nobody would give up a room! Shame on you, wretched Bethlehem; you should’ve been burned with brimstone!
And don’t let you people in this congregation think you’d have done any better if you were there. I can just hear you say, “Oh, we would have loved to take care of the Baby Jesus. We would have washed his diapers.” No you wouldn’t! If you’d been there you wouldn’t have done a bit better, and if you think you would, why don’t you do it for your neighbor in your midst, who is Christ among you?”
(If you’d like to copy & print this quote, or anything else from this overview, you can get it off of the text version on my blog, at http://www.shawnethomas.com. I’ll put that address in the Comments section below)
Luther makes really good point there! Do it for those who are around us NOW. Remember Jesus said, “If you have done it for the least of these … you have done it unto Me.”
You could even discuss with your class: “Who are some of the people in OUR community that we should be reaching out to, in light of this passage?”
Then VERSE 8 begins the story of the Shepherds.
The Angels made God’s “birth announcement” to shepherds — the angels you might expect — that is worthy of the King of Kings! But the shepherds — not so much!
Now, like a lot of things in the Bible, we have kind of “romanticized” the shepherds, because we have heard about them all of our lives, and we associate them with Jesus’ birth. A lot of us think of them as those “sweet little painted characters” with classic looks, poised with a sheep sitting “just right” on their shoulders! We think it’s just not quite a real “manger scene” if we don’t have those perfect little shepherds in them.
(You might want to bring a shepherd from a manger scene to show your class what you are talking about: don’t they look homey?)
But that is NOT the real picture of shepherds in the Bible. The truth is, most of us would NOT want any of the shepherds from Bible times at our next Christmas party! They did not have a good reputation. They were considered “low life.”
In fact, the “Talmud”, which contained the traditional Jewish interpretations of the Law, says that shepherds were not to be allowed to testify in the courts as witnesses. Their credibility was so bad, no one would believe them. In another place the Talmud goes so far as to state that “no help must be given to the heathen, or to shepherds.”
So shepherds were not the “deserving poor” in Jesus’ day; they were “undeserving,” unwanted, untrusted, unacceptable.
And so how significant is it, then, that when Jesus was born, He sent His angels to appear … to SHEPHERDS!
— NOT to King Herod.
— NOT to the Jewish religious leaders who “knew all about” where the Messiah would be born, but didn’t really care.
— Even the magi from the East didn’t get this personal announcement from the angels like they did.
But God sent His angels with the announcement to the shepherds — the the low-life, the outcasts. That says something about about who Jesus came for. He didn’t come for the person who thinks they’ve got it all together. Jesus said “it’s not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick.” He said He didn’t come for people who thought they were righteous, but for those who knew they were SINNERS.
So you can make the point to your group: today if you know you’re like those shepherds, and you’ve not been all that you should be; then REJOICE! This announcement is for YOU! Jesus came for YOU! People would point to those shepherds and say, “If they can be saved, anyone can!” And I think that is exactly what God is saying. If I saved these guys, that means I can save YOU too — whoever you are — if you will accept it!
It gives hope for every one of us, that every one of us can be saved.
Then I might spend some time in class on unpacking :10-11 and the message of the angel. There is SO MUCH there:
— “good news” — it’s “good news” because we don’t have to earn our salvation; Jesus would completely pay it for us!
— “great joy” — the gospel is all about JOY: we were separated from the source of joy, but Jesus has come to bring it back..
— “for ALL the people” — this message is for everyone!
(:11) — “TODAY” — they’d been waiting for so long but now it is TODAY!
— “in the city of David” (Bethlehem, like Micah 5:2 predicted), again, a REAL PLACE where this REAL THING happened!
— there has been born, what?
— A Savior, Christ, the Lord. You could spend some time examining those 3 titles: SAVIOR — the sacrifice for our sins; CHRIST — the “anointed one,” Meshicha, the One predicted in the Old Testament; and LORD: the Master, Boss of our lives.
??? One discussion question you could ask your group might be: “Which of those 3 titles, “Savior,” “Christ,” and “Lord” is the most meaningful to YOU?”, and talk about that for a minute.
— But then I would surely focus on this: WHO did He do this for? These may be the best words in the whole text: “For YOU”! And those words apply to YOU & me just as much as they did to those shepherds that day. We need to make it personal; it is FOR YOU!
SO many things in our world are for other people, but not US. For example, I read the other day that a number of states were sending out what they call “inflation rebates” — tax rebates to help people in their state because of the high inflation we’ve been experiencing. I thought, WOW, I wonder if we’re getting that here in Texas? So I looked it up, and our son in South Carolina is getting one (in fact he did get $300) and several other states are — but NOT Texas! It’s not for us!
So many things are like that — it’s not for us. It’s only for the poor, or only for the rich, or only for people with kids, or only for a a certain race, or whatever. So many things are not for everyone. But Luke 2 really emphasizes that the good news of Jesus is for EVERYONE.
— :10 says “ALL the people.”
— :11 says it is “FOR YOU”! That’s the great news. It is for YOU!
But we all need to make it personal, and apply it to our own life.
Billy Graham’s wife Ruth shared the testimony in her little book, My Turn, that when she was growing up, she had of course heard about Jesus dying for the sins of the world — her parents were missionaries to China — but she said somehow it didn’t seem like it was really for HER, personally. She said she talked to her sister about it — and she said her sister was a very practical, “matter of fact” person — and she said “Well, I don’t know what to do to help you — unless you take a verse from the Bible and put your name in it. See if that helps.” So Ruth did. She went to Isaiah 53, which was one of her favorite passages about what Jesus did, and she put her own name in it: “He was bruised for Ruth’s transgressions; He was crushed for Ruth’s iniquities; the chastening for Ruth’s well-being fell upon Him — and by His stripes Ruth was healed.” And by putting her own name in Isaiah 53, Ruth Graham DID get finally the peace and assurance that Jesus died for HER, and she knew she was saved.
That can be a helpful thing for many of us to do. If you need to know what your sins are forgiven today, or you need assurance of your salvation, put YOUR name in that blank here in Luke 2: “There has been born FOR YOU a Savior.” Put YOUR own name in that:
— “There has been born for SHAWN a Savior!”
— “There has been born for DAN a Savior!”
— “There has been born for YOU — put YOUR name in it — a Savior.” It is for YOU!!
This is a great opportunity to share the gospel with your class, and then give them the chance at the end to pray and ask Jesus to be their Lord & Savior. Say, Jesus did this “FOR YOU” — but if you have never received it, I want to give you a chance to make it personal, and receive it, right now! Then pray a sinners’ prayer, and tell your members they can repeat it silently in their heart if they mean it — and then encourage them that if they prayed with you just then, to let you know after class – or to tell the pastor today in church at the invitation, or however your church handles that.
I can’t imagine a better thing happening in your class on Christmas Sunday, than for someone to ask Jesus to be their Lord & Savior. I pray that in some of our classes THIS week, it will!
OK, I hope this helps you a little with the lesson in Luke 2 for Christmas Day. We’ll get back into the Book of John for next week, with John Chapter 3 — and I do plan to have a video up for that as well.
If you write something in the Comments below, I’ll be sure to pray for your and your group by name this week.
Per my licensing agreement with Lifeway:
- These weekly lessons are based on content from Explore the Bible Adult Resources. The presentation is my own and has not been reviewed by Lifeway.
- Lifeway resources are available at: goExploretheBible.com and: goexplorethebible.com/adults-training
- If you have questions about Explore the Bible resources you may send emails to email@example.com
God bless you.
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Brother Shawn, I really like you overview of Luke 2:1-15. I wanted to use your example from Martin Luther, regarding the donkey. He stated that the donkey is never used in the New Testament. In reality the word, ass was used in place of donkey. Ass is synonymous with donkey; a foal of a donkey was used to transport Mary to Bethlehem. So, could I still use this review by Martin Luther and still be effective? I appreciate your time.
Hi Ron; when Luther said “There’s no donkey in the gospels” I think he meant that in the story of Mary & Joseph as given in the Gospels, it doesn’t say that she was riding on a donkey — rather many of us have just pictured or assumed that she did. So yes, I’d say we can still quote Luther’s sermon and have it be effective. Hope that makes sense and is helpful to you. Praying for you for Sunday!
Thank you Pastor, I did not catch that. And I will use that. Praying for a blessed and happy New Year for you and your family.