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The Story of Christmas—From the Beginning

12-10 Blog Post 350

The following is very good reminder from Dr. Albert Mohler as we make preparations to share the Christmas story in our classrooms and homes:

So, where does the Christmas story begin? In the Gospel of John we read: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.” [John 1:1-3]

The prologue to John’s Gospel points to creation and to Christ, the divine Logos, as the agent of creation. Yet, with language drawn directly from Genesis, John begins his gospel “in the beginning.”

In other words, the Christmas story begins before the creation of the world. As we celebrate Christmas and contemplate the Christmas story, we must be very careful not to begin the story in Bethlehem, or even in Nazareth, where Mary was confronted by Gabriel with the message that she would be the mother of the Messiah.

We must not even begin with Moses and the prophets, and with the expectation of the coming Son of Man, the promised Suffering Servant, and the heralded Davidic Messiah. We must begin before the world was created and before humanity was formed, much less fallen.

Why is this so important? Put simply, if we get the Christmas story wrong, we get the Gospel wrong. Told carelessly, the Christmas story sounds like God’s “Plan B.” In other words, we can make the Christmas story sound like God turning to a new plan, rather than fulfilling all that he had promised. We must be very careful to tell the Christmas story in such a way that we make the gospel clear.

Excerpt from Dr. Mohler’s article, “Where Does the Story of Christmas Begin?.”

Theological Highlight: The Incarnation

It’s often said that Christmas is a “magical” time for children. But a more accurate description should be that Christmas is a “miraculous” time as we ponder the miracle of the incarnation. So as we think and plan toward how we will teach about and celebrate Christmas with the children in our church and home, let us consider the importance of the doctrine of the incarnation. Consider these words from Jared Wilson from his article “The Christmas Miracle of the Incarnation of the Omnipresent Word.”

Every year at this time as we celebrate the birth of baby Jesus to the virgin Mary, I don’t suppose it occurs to too many merrymakers that what they’re really celebrating is the Incarnation. All of the other miracles are in service of that central miracle: God became man. And in becoming, through Spiritual conception, the man Jesus of Nazareth, the Word of God did not cease to be God. Baby Jesus, from the moment of conception to the straw habitation of the manger, was fully God and fully man. That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

When we put our minds long to the idea of Jesus being one hundred percent God and simultaneously one hundred percent man, they naturally feel overwhelmed. The orthodox doctrine of the Incarnation is compelling, beautiful, biblically sensible, and salvifically necessary, but it is nevertheless utterly inscrutable. And that’s okay. In the end, the Incarnation is not for analysis but for worship.

As Jared Wilson states, the doctrine of the incarnation is “… utterly inscrutable”—beyond full comprehension for adults and children alike. However, we can and must present children with these clear succinct truths:

  • Jesus was fully God.
  • Jesus became fully man.
  • Jesus is both fully God and fully man, forever.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

(John 1:1, 14 ESV)

Example of comments and questions to help younger elementary aged children to understand the above verses:

  • Do you know what a nickname is? Sometimes people, especially our parents and friends, might call us by a different name like “squirt,” “honey,” “dear,” etc. ”The Word” is another name for Jesus. Even as a tiny baby, Jesus was God. All the words that are true of God are true of Jesus, too.
  •  Discuss the characteristics of babies: they have soft skin, no teeth, sleep a lot, do not walk or talk, etc. Jesus had those same characteristics as a baby because He was born as a real human person like us.
  • God sent baby Jesus to His people to do the biggest job of all—to save sinful people. It doesn’t seem like a tiny baby could do such a big job. But the Bible tells us that Jesus is really God. Is any job too hard for God? No! So, is any job too hard for Jesus? No!
  • When you think about Jesus being a tiny baby in a manger, is it easy or hard for you to believe that Jesus is fully God? What makes it hard for people to believe that He is God? What kinds of things show what God is like? What kinds of things show what babies are like? But what does the Bible say? (Recall John 1:1 and 1). The Bible, God’s true Word, says that Jesus is God. Pray that God would help you to trust that what His Word says is true—that Jesus is God.
  •  Since Jesus is God, how should you act toward Jesus? What did Simeon do? What did the shepherds do? What did the wise men do? What do you do? Spend some time together thinking

about ways you can love, trust, and praise Jesus.

(Adapted from Jesus, What a Savior: A Study for Children on Redemption.

Traditions and Our Children

I have really enjoyed Noël Piper’s book Treasuring God in Our Traditions . As the holidays are fast upon us, I would highly recommend this resource for every family. Noël not only gives great ideas for celebrating “especially” traditions like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and birthdays, but she also discusses the importance “everyday” traditions that help point our children God-ward. Here is an excerpt:

You shall teach [God’s words] to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. (Deuteronomy 11:19)

When I get caught up in the biography of a person I admire, my family hears all about this person for days. Whatever someone says seems to remind me of some  event in her life. So mealtime conversations are filled with stories that flow from my own fascination. As we are filling our hearts and souls with God’s Word, what will be more natural than the same sort of spillover onto our family?

But are we really talking about tradition here? Isn’t this passage about teaching and about God’s Word? Yes, and one of the main features of traditions is repetition. Of course, we wouldn’t say that sitting or walking or lying down or rising up, no matter how frequently they’re repeated, are traditions. But those activities represent the things that we do most often, and they are named as reminders to do the most crucial thing we can do for our children—teach them the words of God. God wants us to remember to see him in the most mundane parts of our lives. And what we see, he wants us to talk about with our children. When that level of significance is added to the ordinary repetitions of life, a tradition is created.

Sitting, walking, lying down, and rising up are so insignificant that we don’t even give them a thought. But I pray that my children will look back at “insignificant” times and ask each other, “Remember trying to catch Mom and Dad before they got up in the morning so we could snuggle with them, and how lots of times Daddy prayed out loud before we all got out of bed?” or “Remember when we asked questions, and somehow the answers always came back to God?”

Things like that don’t just happen. They come first from our own hearts that are tuned in to God. Then they happen because we plan to include our children in the God-air we breathe. Without planning, we’ll practice our Bible memory just once or twice and then no more. We’ll do lots of good things, but only a couple of times. One of the great strengths of good traditions in our lives is the repetition—not something done once, then something else, then another thing altogether, but good things done regularly, dependably, until they become habits.

(Taken from Treasuring God in Our Traditions by Noël Piper, © 2003, pages 24-25. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org)

What Our Children Should Understand About Work

Work

Today is Labor Day in the United States, and you might want to consider using it as an opportunity to instruct your children about a biblical view of labor. Here is a quote from famous English author Dorothy Sayers that could serve as an interesting discussion starter:

The only Christian work is good work well done. Let the Church see to it that the workers are Christian people and do their work well, as to God: then all the work will be Christian work, whether it is Church embroidery or sewage-farming.

And here are three main ideas for further study and discussion:
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Fall Gear Up: Prayer—What if…

Prayer

In his booklet Utter Dependency on God, Through PrayerPastor Bud Burk beckons us to consider some “what if” questions regarding prayer in our classrooms. Here are a few of his “what if…”

What if the prayer environment in our classrooms (like Sunday school) was real and growing to the degree that parents began to ask a second question next to the first after each class time, the first being “what did you learn today”? What if they began asking questions like, “were you with God today—did you spend time with Jesus—what did the Spirit say to you while in prayer and in the Word”?

What if children knew that we expected God to be present in our classroom, because our expectation shaped how we prayed while among them?

What if the ministry to the next generation God has placed you in was known for its obvious God-glorifying

  • Word ministry: We teach children the Bible.
  • Prayer ministry: We help children listen to and pray to the God of the Bible in Jesus’ name.
  • What if your ministry could be summarized by Psalm 119:2, “Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart,”?

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Take Heart, Trouble’s Coming

Let not Your Heart be Troubled

The title of this post is my effort to offer a word of encouragement and hope for those who are getting ready to launch another season of ministry with children and youth. The rest of this post is for those who having difficulty finding encouragement and hope in the title.

I am taking my cues from the Lord Jesus, whose final words for his disciples span chapters 14-16 in gospel of John. One clear message of this discourse is that trouble is coming.

I am going away,” (14:28)
“I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming.” (14:30)
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (15:13)
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” (15:18)
“I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (15:19)
“If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” (15:20)
They will put you out of the synagogues…” (16:2)
“…the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.” (16:2)
“A little while, and you will see me no longer…” (16:16)
“Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament,…You will be sorrowful,…” (16:20)
“….you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone.” (16:32)

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Are We Hindering Children from Coming to Jesus?

Childlike Toward God

In his message “Let the Children Come to Me,” PastorJohn Piper examined Luke 18:15-17 and made the following statement,

Disciples of Jesus should remove all hindrances that keep children from coming to Jesus.

He then went on to spell out five hindrances that we should try to remove in ministering to children. Here are excerpts from four of these:

1. Pride …If you are receiving the kingdom yourself like a little child, then you will not do anything to hinder little children from coming to Jesus. But if you are trying to enter the kingdom some other way than by receiving it like a child, then you will probably be a hindrance to children. If you are not childlike toward God, children will probably be beneath you and not worth your time.

So there is a very close connection between your own humility and your ability to lead children to Jesus. The great hindrance to effective ministry to children is pride, and the great gift for ministry to children is humility.
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Growing in Faith Together: Parent and Child Resource Pages

GIFT thumb

Parents have the unique responsibility and awesome privilege of shepherding their children spiritually. We want to help churches equip parents to bring truth to bear on the daily life experiences they share
as a family. It is in these daily experiences that the Word can be tried
and found true.

To that end, we include Growing in Faith Together (GIFT): Parent and Child Resource Pages with all our curriculum, to help parents in this important calling. GIFT pages have been written to help parents interact with their children about what they are learning in class. These pages help parents discuss truths that their child is learning in class and help the child apply these truths in daily life, in the hope that their son or daughter will grow in spiritual understanding and in faith.

Some of the benefits of the newly-revised GIFT pages are:

  • They are now available in a convenient spiral-bound version, which can be provided to parents at the beginning of the year. This saves administrative time for church staff and/or teachers.
  • Stories of God’s providence provided for each lesson can be read aloud and discussed as a family. These can serve as a supplement to your family’s regular devotion times.
  • As You Walk by the Way exercises are designed to prompt deep discussions, encouraging parents and their children to engage in spiritual conversations as a part of normal everyday life.

Spiral-bound GIFT pages can be ordered in sets of 10. Note: These pages are also available on the the DVD that is included in the Classroom Kit and can be e-mailed to parents or printed and distributed each week.

The Generations in Worship

Watching and Listening

Here is an excellent message by Pastor Bud Burk (Pastor for Child & Youth Discipleship, Bethlehem Baptist Church) for everyone in the church, especially parents and pastors regarding children being present with their parents in the corporate worship service. A few excerpts for your encouragement…  (more…)

God’s Providence + Friday Contest

***This contest is now closed. Charity and Amy were our winners. Thanks to everyone for participating!***


Aggie Hurst, the inspiring story of a girl without a home, One Witness
Yesterday’s blog post informed you of our revised and enhanced curriculum, My Purpose Will Stand: A Study for Children on God’s Providence (available in our webstore later this month).  Here is a sampling of one of the new stories included in the GIFT (Growing in Faith Together) pages. It is a great story of God’s providence to share with your children and students. 

David and Svea Flood left Sweden in 1921 to serve as missionaries in a remote area of the Belgian Congo. Along with another young missionary couple, the Ericksons, the Floods were prohibited from entering the village by the chief of the tribe. Consequently, they bought food from a young boy who Svea led to the Lord. (more…)

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