Warning: You are using an old browser. For the sake of the entire Internet and to ensure all functionality works properly, please upgrade your browser.

Upgrade Internet Explorer Download Google Chrome

Lesson Prep

Background Scripture (read 2-3 times during the week)

Matthew 1:18-25, Luke 2:1-7

Story Summary

Since this story is so short, a summary is not needed. Simply read the Bible verses!

Here are some interesting facts:

  • During the Roman Empire, censuses were taken for assessing taxes and drafting men into the military. Since the Jews were exempt from serving, the only reason for Joseph's trip to Bethlehem was for taxation. He was required to go to the town of his birth. A census was held every 14 years.
  • Joseph and Mary walked about 80 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem.
  • The manger was a feed box in which a newborn lamb was placed to keep it warm.
  • Swaddling is an age-old practice of wrapping infants in swaddling cloths, blankets or similar cloth so that movement of the limbs is tightly restricted.

What You Will Need

Supplies
pictures of newborn babies (preferably pictures of your students when they were babies)
Take Home Items
strips of cloth

Resource Sheets

Joseph, Mary and Jesus

Use this for the "Popsicle Stable" reinforcement activity below

Bethlehem Coloring Sheet

This coloring sheet depicts Mary in the stable with Jesus in Bethlehem

Lesson

1. Warm Up

get your kids talking and engaged

What town where you born in? 

Show pictures of some newborn babies (preferably some of your students when they were babies). How would things have been different when Jesus was born?

2. Teach the Story

teach a holistic story

Older students can be read directly from the Bible, since the story is short. 

The youngest students can be told the story from a children's storybook Bible

3. Bible Mastery

give them basic Bible skills

Scripture for Kids to Read Aloud: Luke 2:1-7

4. Comprehension Questions

make sure they understand the story

First, ask the children if they have any questions about the story. What to do if you don't know the answer?

  • Who made the law that required Joseph to go to Bethlehem? (Caesar Augustus)
  • What did the law say? (A list was to be made of everyone in the Roman world - a census)
  • Why did Joseph go to Bethlehem? (He came from the family line of David- 1 Samuel 6:1)
  • Where was Jesus born (in a manger, or a feed box)
  • What was Jesus wrapped in after he was born? (strips of cloth)
  • Why was Jesus born in a stable? (There was no private room in the inn. The inns of Bethlehem would have been large common areas)

5. Faith Questions

help them apply the story to their lives and open up a conversation about faith and the gospel; close with prayer
  • Jesus is God himself, but he came to earth as a tiny baby so we can be confident that he knows what we go through as humans.
  • Jesus cares about what is going on in your life. What do you need Jesus' help for?

6. Memory Verse

hide God's Word in their heart
Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:11

Reinforcement Activities

Birthday Cake

Scripture She gave birth to her first baby. It was a boy. She wrapped him in large strips of cloth. Then she placed him in a manger. There was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:7

Supplies cake mix, icing,

  • Mix up and bake a cake.
  • Decorate with words, "Happy Birthday, Jesus"
  • Add candles and sing happy birthday.

My Birthday, Jesus' Birthday

Scripture While Joseph and Mary were there, the time came for the child to be born. Luke 2:6

Supplies Book by Holly Davis

  • Read book My Birthday, Jesus' Birthday by Holly Davis.
  • This book contrasts student birthdays with Jesus' birthday.

Family Portrait

Scripture While Joseph and Mary were there, the time came for the child to be born. She gave birth to her first baby. It was a boy. Luke 2:6-7a

Supplies white paper, colored pencils, popsicle sticks or wooden frame

  • Have students draw a family portrait of Mary, Joseph and Jesus.
  • Glue popsicle sticks together to make a frame to go around the portrait.
Family Portrait Example

Make your own manger

Scripture She gave birth to her first baby. It was a boy. She wrapped him in large strips of cloth. Then she placed him in a manger. There was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:7

Supplies pieces of hay, popsicle sticks, small pieces of fabric, glue, peanuts or other small objects to wrap up as Jesus

  • Provide supplies and allow students to make their own manger scene.
  • Encourage students to use their creativity

Popsicle stable

Scripture She gave birth to her first baby. It was a boy. She wrapped him in large strips of cloth. Then she placed him in a manger. There was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:7

Supplies card stock for each student, 4 popsicle sticks per child, glue, small star, picture of Joseph, Mary and Jesus (see Resource Sheets above)

  • Glue popsicle sticks in the shape of a stable onto a piece of card stock.
  • Attach a small star above the stable.
  • Color and glue the picture of Joseph, Mary and Jesus in the stable

Manger Blocks

Scripture Luke 2:1-7

Supplies wooden blocks, sanded

  • Print a copy of Mary, Joseph and Jesus for each student.
  • Have students color the pictures.
  • Cut out each picture separately.
  • Glue each picture to a small wooden block.
  • Use Mod Podge to seal the pictures to the blocks.
  • Your students have their own manger!
  • You can also print pictures of donkeys, camels, shepherds and wise men to complete the manger.

Pin Mary on the Donkey

Scripture And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. (Luke 2:4-5)

Supplies Cut out of Mary and the Donkey (see below), thumbtacks, blindfold

  • Play the traditional "Pin the Tail on the Donkey" game, but instead try and pin Mary on the donkey.
  • (Note: while the Bible doesn't explicitly say that Mary rode a donkey, the traditional understanding of Mary riding a donkey from Nazareth the Bethlehem is certainly probable)

Donkey Craft

Scripture So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. Luke 2:4-5

Supplies clothespins, donkey pattern printed on card stock, gray crayons, glue, black yarn, if desired

  • Print donkey pattern on card stock.
  • Cut out donkey (including cutting out the legs).
  • Color with gray crayon.
  • Glue small pieces of black yarn for the donkey's mane.
  • Clip clothespins to bottom as legs.

Stick Stable

Scripture She gave birth to her first baby. It was a boy. She wrapped him in large strips of cloth. Then she placed him in a manger. There was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:7

Supplies twigs, glue gun

  • Use small twigs and vines to make a manger.
Stick Stable Example

Wooden Manger

Heads up! have pieces pre-cut prior to class

Scripture She gave birth to her first baby. It was a boy. She wrapped him in large strips of cloth. Then she placed him in a manger. There was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:7

Supplies wood slats, wood glue

  • Build a wooden manger

Taking a Census

Scripture In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register. Luke 2:1-3

Supplies small slips of paper, pencils

  • Pretend that your class needs more crayons and markers, but you're not sure what colors to choose or how many to buy.
  • Write your name and favorite color on a piece of paper.
  • Fold the paper. Draw a stamp. Put the paper in the mailbox.
  • We’ll count the mail to find out how many students are in our class and which art supplies we should get.
  • On the board, tally up the responses. Is anyone absent today? What would happen if some students did not get counted?
  • In our country, we count people, too. This way we get the workers, places, and services we need such as firefighters, police, schools, and hospitals.
  • Knowing how many people there are helps us decide what each place needs.
  • What happens if all the people in the state do not get counted?
  • We call this process of counting all of the people in all of the states, the census.
  • Grown-ups mail in answers to questions.

Names of Jesus

Heads up! Print out some of the names of Jesus with scripture references.

Scripture Luke 1:31

Supplies names of Jesus, construction paper, things to decorate each name: markers, stickers, glitter, etc.

  • Discuss names and nicknames and go around the circle talking about names and nicknames of the kids and discuss where their names come from. Talk about how our names tell something about us and how Jesus has over 200 names and they all tell us about who He is and how He works in our lives. Introduce a few of His names and what they mean. Let the kids cut out the names and glued them to red or green construction paper and decorate. You can use these to decorate the classroom through the Christmas season.

Walk a Mile

Scripture So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. Luke 2:4

  • Walk a mile together!
  • Mary and Joseph traveled about 80 miles on their journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem.
  • Imagine together if you had to walk 79 more times.
  • Observe nature as you walk.
  • Pray for the people you pass or that live near your route.

Manger smells

Scripture She gave birth to her first baby. It was a boy. She wrapped him in large strips of cloth. Then she placed him in a manger. There was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:7

Supplies things you would have found in the stable

  • Allow students to experience smells that would have been present in the stable.
  • hay
  • donkey poop (definitely for the boy's classes!)
  • feed for animals
  • dirt

Stable Snack

Scripture She gave birth to her first baby. It was a boy. She wrapped him in large strips of cloth. Then she placed him in a manger. There was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:7

Supplies pretzel sticks, l'il smokies, crescent rolls, shoestring chips, cheese

  • Cut crescent roll triangles into smaller pieces.
  • Wap L'il smokies in crescent rolls, leaving one end open. (This is baby Jesus wrapped in a blanket).
  • Bake as directed.
  • Place pretzels on plate in the shape of a stable.
  • Cut a heart star out of cheese slices and place on top of stable.
  • Place shoe string snacks as hay in the stable.
  • Put Jesus on top of the hay.

manger sounds

Supplies internet access and a device to access the internet with

  • We couldn't get a hold of the manger smells, so we got creative looked up the sounds of the manger. Each animal sound was played for the kids and they were asked to guess the manger sounds.

Census and Maps

Scripture In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register. Luke 2:1-3

Supplies Printable US and world maps (see the links below), map of the Middle East during Bible times

  • Give each child a map as appropriate (US or world map)
  • Have them write their name and make two dots on the map: one where they were born and one where they live now.
  • If they are old enough, they can write the name of each town on the map.
  • Collect them and discuss with the class.
  • Use Google Maps to see how far away they would have to go if they had to go back to where they were born for a census. (Hint: Google Maps allows you to choose different modes of transportation when you get directions between two points. You can choose walking to see how long it would take them to walk back to where they were born)
  • Compare that to how long it would have taken Joseph and Mary to walk from Nazareth to Bethlehem.