This is a sign for you: you will find a newborn baby wrapped snugly and lying in a manger. (Luke 2:12)
Although we hear the story every year, the message of the Christmas story remains inspiring and empowering. God did not choose to make a flashy and attention-gathering entrance. Instead God chose to reveal God’s presence with us through the birth of a baby born in humble circumstances. The shepherds were the first to receive the news of Jesus’ birth.
We’ve heard of the shepherds’ visit to Bethlehem so many times that we may fail to realize how surprising and unusual it was. Although the term shepherd evokes calm, pastoral scenes in our minds, at the time of Jesus’ birth shepherding was a despised occupation. Shepherds were on the fringes of society, looked down upon as shiftless and untrustworthy people. Shepherds often slept outside with their flocks. Imagine how they must have smelled! Yet it was these shepherds who were the first to receive the news of Jesus’ birth.
The shepherds received the news of Jesus’ birth from an angel. One can imagine that the sudden appearance of an angel and then an entire heavenly host must have caused some trembling. In response to the surprising angelic announcement, the shepherds hurried off to Bethlehem to find Mary, Joseph, and the child of whom they had been told. Once they had seen the baby, the shepherds went and told the news to others. This news was far too wonderful to be kept to oneself!
When your children gather this week, they will have already celebrated Christmas. For children the celebration of Christmas is often equated with the presents they have received. Help your children focus on the joy of Christmas and the experience of celebrating. Also be sensitive to those children in your class for whom Christmas may be a sad or difficult time for whatever reason. Emphasize that the Good News of God’s gift of Jesus is for everyone. And even now, many years after Jesus’ birth, this is a cause for celebration.
Jesus is God’s gift to all people.
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