Nativity Session 1: The Journey

III. Lesson Plans: Nativity Session 1: The Journey Context: Mary and Joseph journeyed from Nazareth to Bethlehem for the census, the official counting...
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III. Lesson Plans: Nativity Session 1: The Journey Context: Mary and Joseph journeyed from Nazareth to Bethlehem for the census, the official counting of citizens. We begin our preparations for Advent, Christmas and Epiphany. Students will:

• Begin the journey of Advent – a journey of waiting and preparing for the birth of Christ.

• Reflect on the gospel story of Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem where Jesus was born.

• Become aware of Mary and Joseph’s needs in the gospel.

• Develop an awareness of the needs of the people around them.

Prayer: Begin with the prayer on Page 32; Session 1. Read Scripture: Luke 2: 1-5. Assembly: • Have the students cut out the characters for Mary and Joseph. Form them around the cones, sealing them using a glue stick.

• Place the characters inside the first segment of The Jesse Box.

• Have students move the figures of Mary and Joseph from Nazareth closer to Bethlehem.

• Give students different assignments to place the back scenes or characters into place.

• The stable and manger are placed in the first session to help the children anticipate the coming of Christmas.

Explain: In this session we will begin our journey through the season of Advent. Advent begins four Sundays before Christmas. During Advent we wait and prepare for the birth of Jesus Christ in anticipation of the Second Coming of Christ. Today we will focus on Mary and Joseph’s journey as they travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Discuss: Ask the following questions based on the gospel passage, Luke 2: 1-5. 1. Who ordered that a census would be done? (Roman emperor, Caesar Augustus.) 2. Why did Mary and Joseph have to travel to Bethlehem? (In order to be registered for the census. They had to return to Bethlehem, the City of David because Joseph was from the line of David.) 3. How far did Mary and Joseph travel? (From the city of Nazareth in Galilee, to the City of David, which is called Bethlehem, in Judea.) 4. How do you think Mary and Joseph felt traveling? (Fearful, tired, hopeful.) 5. How do you think that they persevered? (They prayed and they had faith that God was with them.)

Explain: Have the children look at a map of Palestine in the time of Jesus. Locate Nazareth and Bethlehem, notice how far Mary and Joseph had to travel (approximately 100 miles or 160 km). Mary and Joseph had many needs along their journey, yet no one seemed to notice them. We take many journeys in our lives. Some of these are journeys to other places, some of our journeys are simply difficulties we face in life. 1. Have you ever made a journey from one city to another? How did you travel? (Answers will vary.) 2. People often make pilgrimages (spiritual journeys) to holy shrines. Can you name any well-known shrines? (Jerusalem in the Holy Land, St. Peter’s tomb in Rome, Lourdes in France.) 3. Other types of journeys we make include meeting new friends, starting a new school or even facing difficulties. What type of “journey” have you taken? How did you feel about these types of journeys? (Answers will vary.) 4. Have you ever noticed someone else in need and helped him or her? (Answers will vary.) 5. Have you ever ignored someone else in need? (Answers will vary.)


Today’s story helps us to focus on preparations and the journey that Mary and Joseph made. During Advent we too prepare our hearts for the birth of Jesus Christ. Advent is a time of preparation through making small sacrifices. There are different ways we can prepare during Advent. The Church recommends prayer, attending Mass, going to Confession and going to Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

Commitment: What commitment will you make this Advent to prepare for the birth of Christ and for his Second Coming? What can you do this Advent to help others who are in need?


Nativity Session 2: Meet the Shepherds Context: In the Bible the shepherds hold a very important place. Abel was the first shepherd, he was slain because of the pride of his brother Cain. Jesus Christ called himself the Good Shepherd. Jesus was crucified because of the sins of mankind.

Students will:

• Continue the Advent journey.

• Reflect on the gospel passage, Luke 2:8-11.

• Become aware of the people Mary and Joseph meet in Bethlehem.

• Explore the presence of shepherds in the Bible.

• Become aware of the gifts and needs of those who are on the margin of society.

Prayer: Begin with the prayer on page 32; Session 2. Read Scripture: Luke 2: 8-11. Assembly: • Have the children cut out and form the figures of the shepherds.

• Place them in the second segment along with the figures of Mary, Joseph, the donkey and the sheep.

• Assign different students to lead the prayer and read the gospel passage.

Explain: This week we continue our Advent journey and we meet the shepherds. The angels told the shepherds that the Savior was born in a stable in the city of David. The shepherds lived with their flocks on the hillside away from the people of the town. The people of the town found the shepherds a little strange, as the people’s lifestyle was different from the shepherd’s lifestyle. We read in the Bible that God often reveals his glory to his shepherds. This was true for the shepherds in Bethlehem, they were the first to know of the birth of Jesus. The shepherds were given the important mission to announce God’s glory to the people. Here we see God’s glory revealed in the birth of the Savior, Jesus Christ. Discuss: Ask the following questions based on the gospel passage, Luke 2:8-11. 1. Does anyone know the names of shepherds in other Bible stories? (Abel - Genesis 4:3, Abraham - Genesis 13:5, Moses Exodus 3:1, David - Samuel 16:11, Jesus - John 10:11.) 2. What was the job of the shepherds? (To protect, water, feed and lead the sheep.) 3. Who told the shepherds the news of the birth of Jesus? (An angel of the Lord.) 4. Why were the shepherds terrified? (The glory of the Lord shone round them.) 5. What did the angel say about the news of great joy? (This news is to be shared with the whole world.)

Explain: Have the children look at the characters of the shepherds and discuss the clothing they wore. Then find a photo in your text book of the Pope or a bishop. The Pope or bishop has a staff which is called a crosier. Help students to see that the crosier is the same as the shepherd’s crook. The Pope and bishops are the shepherds of the flock of God. These shepherds protect, water and feed us with the word of God. Discuss: 1. What was the purpose of the shepherd’s crook? (The crook or staff was used to defend the shepherd and his flock, to test the ground where his flock was feeding and to help rescue any sheep that went astray.) 2. Why do you think that the Pope or a bishop carries a crosier? (It symbolizes that he is a shepherd who feeds, protects and rescues his people or his flock.) 3. Why do you think that Jesus called himself the Good Shepherd? (Jesus not only nourished and protected his flock, he laid down his life for his sheep.) 4. Do you know any people who are considered on the margin or excluded from society? (Someone who is homeless, poor, an orphan, an outsider etc.) 5. The people who live on the margin of society can seem a little strange to us. Sometimes people like the shepherds seem to be on the outside of society because we don’t know them. Yet sometimes God chooses to use these types of people to announce to us the good news of Jesus Christ. Why do you think that God chooses these types of people to do his work? (Sometimes the poor are rich in spiritual ways, the poor can often teach us about a happiness and peace that others do not know.)

Summary: Today’s story helps us to be aware of others who are excluded and who might otherwise be considered unimportant. Maybe you know some people who do not do well in sports or they are a little shy. Maybe they do not do well in school and seem excluded or unimportant.

Commitment: This week look for someone who seems to be on the outside. Make a commitment to include them in your games or other events at school. Jesus is calling each of us to love everyone, not just those we know or like. 27

Nativity Session 3: The Star Context: The star that appeared in the sky attracted the wise men from the East. The star was a sign to show the wise men where to

find the Messiah (Savior). The Messiah was promised to come through God’s chosen people, the Israelites. Most of the world was unaware of the Messiah and his coming or the promise of his coming. When the Three Wise Men saw this star, which was different than the rest, they were curious and started to follow it. They began to see that something important was about to happen.

Students will:

• Continue on the Advent journey with Mary and Joseph.

• Reflect on the gospel passage, Matthew 2: 2-6.

• Explore the reason why the Wise Men begin their journey.

• Learn that through our Baptism we will receive the grace to attract others to Jesus.

Prayer: Begin with the prayer on page 32; Session 3. Read Scripture: Matthew 2: 2-6. Assembly: • Have the children cut out and form the figures of the Three Wise Men. Cut out the camel mats.

• Cut out the prop of the star, cut slots in the back scene of the first segment, this is best done by an adult.

• Insert the tabs of the star into the slots. Move Mary and Joseph closer to the third segment past the shepherds.

• Place the Wise Men on the camels at the start of the first segment.

Explain: This week we meet the Three Wise Men who were attracted by the new star in the sky. They were not sure where the star would lead them or what was going to happen but they still began their journey. This star had been prophesied a long time ago when Israel was making its way from Egypt to the Promised Land (Numbers 24: 17). During this time of Advent we journey to celebrate the birth of Christ, the promised Messiah. In our Advent journey we are called to become like stars that shine with actions of love. Through our actions of love we can attract people to discover that the promise of the Savior is fulfilled. Discuss: Ask the following questions based on the gospel passage, Matthew 2: 2-6,11. 1. From where did the Magi come? (The East.) 2. What started them on their journey? (They saw his star in the sky.) 3. What did King Herod ask of the wise men? (To tell him where he could find Jesus.) 4. Did King Herod want to honor the baby Jesus? (No, he was afraid he would lose his kingship.) 5. What were the gifts the Magi brought to Jesus? (Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh.)

Explain: King Herod only cared about his power. We are called to become “stars” that attract others to Jesus. Look at the lives of just a few people who attracted others to Jesus by the way they lived. • Blessed John Paul II - he forgave the man who shot and tried to kill him. • St. Maximilian Kolbe - he volunteered to die in place of a stranger in the Nazi German death camp. • Blessed Mother Teresa - she dedicated her life to caring for the poor and the sick. • St. Edith Stein - she died a martyr for the Faith in 1942. Through our Baptism we are given the grace to lead a life that will attract others to Jesus.

Discuss: 1. Who are the people you see as a bright star leading you to Jesus? (Answers will vary.) 2. How do we lead others to Jesus Christ? Give examples. (By imitating Jesus in the way we live through humility, holiness, patience etc.) 3. How do we receive the grace to be able to lead others to Christ? (Through our Baptism, prayers, and reception of the Sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist.) 4. Why was King Herod angry? (He did not want to lose his power.) 5. Do you see anyone in today’s society like King Herod? (Answers will vary.)

Summary: This story helps us to question ourselves about how our actions can shine like a star and attract others to Jesus. In our

Baptism we are made children of God. We are like babies that need to grow. The Church helps us to grow through our participation in the Sacraments. Through the Sacraments we receive the grace to grow and to be encouraged to do good works. Looking at the good actions of faithful Christians and the Saints we can be inspired to grow in the Faith and reveal Jesus to others.

Commitment: Make a commitment to become a “star” to others and lead them to Jesus. Specifically, what can you do this Advent in your family or with your friends to lead them to Jesus Christ? Take some time this Advent to read about the lives of the Saints. Try to imitate their acts of prayer and humility.


Nativity Session 4: The Arrival Context: Mary and Joseph have arrived in Bethlehem. The town was very busy because of all the people arriving for the census. The people of the town were so occupied with the concerns of the day. They were unable to recognize that they had the opportunity to make room for the birth of the Messiah, possibly in their own home.

Students will:

• Continue on the Advent journey with Mary and Joseph as they enter Bethlehem.

• Reflect on the gospel passage, Luke 2: 2-7.

• Meet the innkeeper and explore why he was unable to recognize the Holy Family.

• Realize that in all the excitement of Christmas building around them, they should still make space for Jesus.

Prayer: Begin with the prayer on page 32; session 4. Read Scripture: Luke 2: 6-7. Assembly: • Have the children cut out and form the figure of the innkeeper.

• Place the innkeeper at the far end of the third segment of the diorama.

• Move Mary and Joseph beside the innkeeper in the third segment.

• Move the Wise Men on the camels to the start of the second segment.

• Move the sheep and the shepherds into the third segment. Move the star into the second segment.

Explain: This week we meet the innkeeper who is caught up in the events of the day. With all the people arriving in Bethlehem his only concern is to make the best of the circumstances. He is blind to the fact that it is Jesus who is knocking at his door. There is another man in a different gospel who is just the opposite. He found a great pearl in a field, he sold everything he owned and bought the field with the treasure in it. This man valued his treasures (See Matthew 13: 44-46). Discuss: Ask the following questions based on the gospel passage, Luke 2: 2-7. 1. Why was Bethlehem full of people? (Because of the census ordered by Caesar Augustus.) 2. Why did Mary and Joseph have to go to a stable? (Because there was no place for them in the living space.) 3. What is another name for the city of Bethlehem? (City of David.) 4. Who was David? (King of Israel and son of Jesse.) 5. Why was Jesse important? (The Messiah came from the family line of Jesse, the father of David. Isaiah 11: 1 reads: “A shoot will spring from the stock of Jesse, a new shoot will grow from his roots. On him will rest the spirit of the Lord.” Jesus is the shoot that springs from Jesse!)

Explain: Mary and Joseph were unable to find anyone to welcome them, but they still trusted in God. Some people are homeless or have to move a lot because of difficulties in their lives. There are ministries in your parish to help these types of strangers or people in need. A few examples of these ministries are St. Vincent de Paul and Samaritans. These ministries give each of us an opportunity to be hospitable to those whom we do not know. Hospitality is very important in the Bible. Jesus calls each of us to love our neighbors as ourselves. The Christian’s response is to be hospitable to everyone, not just those whom we know. Discuss: 1. What do you think it was like for Mary and Joseph not to find a room in which to stay? How would they have felt? (Afraid, lonely, rejected.) 2. When it seemed like all was lost, who was the Holy Family able to trust? (They trusted in God.) 3. Have you ever had a need to trust in God? (Answers will vary.) 4. Why was the innkeeper unable to see the Holy Family? (He was too busy with other things that seemed more important.) 5. Do we want to be like the innkeeper who could not recognize the real treasure before him, or the man in the gospel who treasured the pearl? (Answers will vary.)

Summary: In today’s story we discover that all the excitement of Christmas can distract us from seeing that Jesus is knocking at the door of our hearts. Through the Advent preparations we become aware of the needs of others. This helps us to make room for Jesus to be born in our homes and hearts.

Commitment: This week try to make time to welcome Jesus. Make a commitment to welcome one person or one group of people into your life in a special way during Advent. 29

Nativity Session 5: Christmas Eve Context: Tonight we will celebrate the great news for which the entire world was waiting. All the preparation during Advent is centered on this night. A Savior has been born for us, he is the King of Kings born in a stable. He came so we may have life and have it to the fullest.

Students will:

• Celebrate the love of God that is available to all mankind through the birth of Jesus in the Holy Family.

• Discover the humility of the King of Kings who was born in a stable, when he had the right to be born in a palace.

• See that God kept his promise to save mankind so that we could go to heaven.

Prayer: Begin with the prayer on page 32; session 5. Read Scripture: Luke 2: 9-18. Assembly: • At this stage in the story the background scenes change. See storyboard on page 26.

• Move the stable into the second segment.

• Have the children cut out the figure of the infant Jesus, place him in the manger within the stable in the center segment.

• Cut out the figure of the angel and place over the second segment.

• Move the figures around the stable. Move the Wise Men to the end of the first segment.

Explain: During the season of Advent we have been preparing to welcome Jesus. We celebrate that the Son of God has chosen to be

born in a stable and to live among us. We see Mary, Joseph and the infant Jesus laying in a manger; this was the greatest gift that God could give to us, the Son of God born into a family of love.

Discuss: 1. What does the birth of Jesus mean for you? (Jesus was born so that we could get to heaven. Jesus leads us back to his Father.) 2. Why do you think we call Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus the Holy Family? (Because Jesus Christ is the Son of God, Mary and Joseph recognized this and they are examples of holiness.) 3. How can our families try to be like the Holy Family? (Pray together, love one another and serve God faithfully.) Give some examples of what your family does. 4. How can the Holy Family help us? (By the example they give us. We can pray to Jesus, Mary and Joseph to help us in our families and to show us what real love is all about.) 5. How can we announce this news to our family and friends? (By serving, sharing, and loving the others in our family; by telling others that Jesus came to lead them to heaven.)

Explain: God loves each of us more than we will ever know. After the fall of Adam and Eve, God promises to send a Savior. Now God’s love is revealed to us as he sends a Savior on Christmas Day. Jesus, the King of Kings comes to us to restore the grace we lost after the fall of Adam and Eve. God gave us the gift of his Son so that he could reopen the gates of heaven. Without this great gift of Jesus, none of us could go to heaven. Discuss: 1. After the fall of Adam and Eve what did God promise to mankind? (That he would send a Savior to reopen heaven.) 2. Who told us about this promise? (The prophets in the Bible, our parents and teachers.) 3. How did God keep his promise made to mankind? (Through the birth and life of his Son Jesus.) 4. In what sacrament do Christians first receive this promise? (In Baptism.) 5. What is the greatest gift you can ask for this Christmas? (Answers will vary, encourage students not to mention material gifts.)

Summary: Today we celebrate the greatest gift God has given to mankind. This gift was a Savior who reopened the gates of heaven. Now we can share in eternal life with God in heaven! This is the Good News of Jesus Christ! “But you Bethlehem, the least of the clans of Judah, from you will come for me a future ruler of Israel whose origins go back to the distant past, to the days of old. Hence the Lord will abandon them only until she who is in labor gives birth. And then those who survive of his race will be reunited to Israelites. He will take his stand and will shepherd them with the power of the Lord. With majesty of the name of God, they will be secure, for his greatness will extend henceforth to the most distant parts of the country.” (Micah 5: 1-3)

Commitment: Give thanks for the birth of Jesus. In a specific way bring God’s love that is in your heart to another family. 30

Nativity Session 6: The Epiphany Context: The Feast of the Epiphany is the revelation of Jesus as the Savior to the world. Jesus was revealed to the world through the Magi or Three Wise Men. After the celebration of Christmas, which is centered on the Holy Family we now celebrate the Epiphany, which is centered on revealing Jesus Christ to the world.

Students will:

• Explore the journey of the Magi and how their meeting with the infant Jesus changed their lives.

• Discover how to act when we are in the presence of Jesus.

• Discover what causes us to lose sight of Jesus and how we can return to him.

Prayer: Begin with the Prayer on page 32; Session 6. Read Scripture: Matthew 2: 9-12. Assembly: • Move the figures of the Wise Men off the camels and around the stable in the second segment.

• Move the shepherds to the end of the third segment.

• Remove the angel.

Explain: The Magi started a journey attracted by a star that was different in the sky. They were not sure where they were going, but this did not prevent them from continuing the journey. The attraction of this star was so strong that it helped them to overcome their fears of the unknown. Along the way the Magi discovered new things outside of what was normal for them. They persevered and were courageous, even when they lost sight of the star they were following. During our journey to follow Jesus there will be times when we too will get lost. Sometimes we will be unsure of where we are going. When this happens we are called to persevere and become courageous and to trust that Jesus is by our side. Discuss: Ask the following questions based on the gospel passage, Matthew 2: 9-12. 1. What guided the Magi to Jesus? (A new star in the sky.) 2. How did the Magi feel when they saw the star? (They were overjoyed.) 3. What did the Magi do when they saw the infant Jesus? (They rejoiced and fell down in worship.) 4. Why did the Magi bring Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh? (These were gifts for a King.) 5. Why did they return home by a different way? (They were instructed by an angel in a dream.)

Explain: Jesus was revealed to the rest of the world through the Magi. We too are called to reveal Jesus to the world. In our Baptism we have been given the mission to reveal Jesus to all the nations by the way we live. Some are called to enter religious orders, others as missionaries, teachers, catechists or parents. The Holy Spirit guides us in our mission and shows us how we are to reveal the love of God to others. When we sin we lose sight of our mission and become unsure of where we are going. If this happens we can ask for help and directions from Mary and the Church. The birth of Jesus Christ fills us with Faith, Love, and Hope giving us courage and making it possible for us to return to God our Father in heaven. Discuss: 1. Why was it important for the Magi to come and see Jesus? (They had the mission to reveal this news to the rest of the world.) 2. What should we do when we come into the presence of Jesus in church or when we receive him in the Holy Eucharist? (We should give him the highest praise, thank him for our blessings, and give him the gift of ourselves. We should also show reverence in church by genuflecting or bowing before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.) 3. If we lose sight of Jesus, from whom do we ask directions? (The Church and Mary, the mother of Jesus who leads us to her Son.) 4. What can cause us to lose sight of Jesus? (Sin, such as pride or selfishness, envy, jealousy.) 5. When we sin how can we return to God? (Through the Sacrament of Confession.)

Summary: The Epiphany is not the end of the celebrations but the start. Through our own epiphany we discover who Jesus is and this

is how the real journey begins. Our journey may take us in different directions. We may be unsure of where we are going, but with Jesus we will experience a joy, peace and happiness that we never knew before. When we discover this peace it will be revealed to others by the way we live. As Baptized Christians we are called to reveal Christ to others around us. We too can get lost on our journey to God. Mary, our mother in heaven will always lead us to her Son. Advent and Christmas is the beginning of our journey each year.

Commitment: Announce to one person you know that Jesus has been born for our salvation and that he has reopened heaven.


Prayer Page P:

O God, come to our aid.


O Lord, make haste to help us.


Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.


As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Prayer and gospel reading for the session* After reading the gospel passage invite the children to make the scene using The Jesse Box for that session. When they have finished, conclude with the following:

Spontaneous prayers: Invite everyone present to pray, asking God for the help to use this time to prepare to celebrate Christmas and for the second coming of Jesus.

Our Father (All say together) Sign of peace P:

The Lord bless us, and keep us from all evil, and bring us to everlasting life.

R: Amen.

* Prayer and gospel reading for the session Session 1: Father we thank you for the gift of this season of Advent to help us awake to the coming of your Son. Help us to use this time of Advent to prepare for the celebration of Christmas, to create a space within us where your Son Jesus can be born. We ask that we can share the peace and joy of this season with everyone we meet. Amen.

Gospel reading: Luke 2: 1-5 Session 2: Father we thank you for sending us messengers to announce the birth of your Son and your love for us. Help us to listen to them and give us the courage to respond to the message they bring. Amen.

Gospel reading: Luke 2: 8-11 Session 3: Father we thank you for the people who have responded to your call and lead us to your Son. Help us to make your love present. Give us the grace to announce this in the way we live and lead others to discover your Son and this love. Amen.

Gospel reading: Matthew 2: 2-6 Session 4: Father we thank you for sending us your Son to live among us. Help us to recognize Jesus when he knocks on the doors of our hearts. Give us the grace to put him in the first place. Amen.

Gospel reading: Luke 2: 6-7 Session 5: Father help us to welcome your son Jesus Christ, to make a space for him within our hearts where he can grow and lead us and others to eternal life. Amen.

Gospel reading: Luke 2: 9-18 Session 6: Father we thank you for revealing your Son to us. We ask for the grace and courage we need to announce this to the people around us. Amen.

Gospel reading: Matthew 2: 9-12 32