Sunday School Lesson: Back to Bethlehem

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Here is another option for Sunday School this Advent Seasons. It’s a lesson plan intended to present the Christmas story of Christ’s birth in Bethlehem and the Shepherd’s announcement of His birth. It was was first prepared for older elementary students and can be adapted for other ministry opportunities.
Learning Goal: As students take an imaginary journey to the town of Bethlehem they will learn that God kept His promise to send a Savior who would be born in Bethlehem.

Bible Story: Back to Bethlehem
Scripture: Luke 2:1-20
Target Age Group: Age 9 – 11 (U.S. 3rd – 5th Grade)
Learning Context: Sunday School
Target Time Frame: 60 minutes
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Supply List: Bibles, nativity set, play dough, nativity cookie cutters, sheet, (if using play dough), props for the story (back pack, sheep, baby doll, etc.), pictures or flannels of the story, paper, markers, pencils,
Learning Goal: As students take an imaginary journey to the town of Bethlehem they will learn that God kept His promise to send a Savior who would be born in Bethlehem.
Learning Indicator: Students will demonstrate their understanding of the lesson by answering review questions.
Learning Activity #1: Creating a brochure for the town of Bethlehem.  Have students create a brochure that would entice travelers to want to visit the town of Bethlehem.
Learning Activity #2: An activity for students to do while waiting for everyone to arrive is to let them play with a nativity set or use nativity flannels to retell the Christmas story with each other.
Learning Activity #3: Have students use nativity cookie cutters with play dough.  Use a sheet under the table to catch any stray pieces of dough for easy clean up.
Test: Review Questions
Memory Verse: “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.  This will be a sign to you:  You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”  Luke 2:11-12

Bible Lesson:  Back to Bethlehem

(This is a possible way to tell the story about Mary and Joseph’s trip to Bethlehem.  As you take your students on this imaginary trip back in time remind them that although we are taking a make believe trip the events that we are talking about are true because they are recorded in God’s Word (Keep your Bible open to Luke 2 as you lead the students). Another option to tell this story is to line up chairs as though the students are going on a bus tour to visit Bethlehem during the time of Jesus’ birth.  Create a brochure with facts and information about Bethlehem and be the tour guide of the bus.)
Today we are going to go on a journey back in time.  We are going to visit places where Jesus walked while He was on this earth. Let’s get our sandals on and pack up our saddlebags and if you have a donkey you might want to get him ready.  We are heading on a road trip from Jerusalem to the little town of Bethlehem.  Pull out map and show where Jerusalem is and point to Bethlehem.  The trip is about 8 miles so what are some things we might need for our trip since we won’t be hopping in our air-conditioned cars with DVD players and cup holders?
So what kind of place is this town of Bethlehem?  Bethlehem might have looked like just any small town in Israel, but there were some very special things that happened there.  From the Old Testament, we learn of some events that happened in this little town.

  • Rachel, Jacob’s wife died in Bethlehem when she gave birth to her son Benjamin. Genesis 35:19
  • Ruth the Moabite moved to Bethlehem with her mother-in-law Naomi and married Boaz. Ruth 1-4:13
  • King David, Ruth’s great grandson was born in Bethlehem. Ruth 4:16

The people of Bethlehem knew there was something special about their town.  God had made a special promise to send the Messiah.  Messiah means the expected deliverer or Chosen One.  God had promised He would deliver His people from their sins.  The Messiah would be the Savior of the world. God had promised in His Word that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.  (Micah 5:2)
At the time we are visiting this little town of Bethlehem the people have been waiting a long time for God’s promise to send a Messiah to happen.  When God makes a promise He keeps His promise.  His promises may take longer than we expect but God is faithful and will do what He said He would do.
Now that we have our things packed and are ready to leave Jerusalem look over there.  There’s a sign posted in the marketplace. (Have a sign posted on the wall)  Let’s read what it says.  “Every person must report at once to the government officers in the city where your family came from. The ruler Caesar Augustus has commanded that each person do this.  You must obey and go to the town your family came from.”  Caesar wanted to count all the people and this was how he could find out how many people he was ruling over.
Since many people will be travelling to the place where they were born the roads will probably be crowded with many travelers.  I hope the roads aren’t too crowded and our donkeys get along with the other donkeys on the road!  Let’s remember to stay together so we won’t get lost!
Look at all the people!  Imagine how excited they would be if they could borrow our cars to travel to the towns where there families were born!
Do you see the woman who looks like she is about to have a baby riding on a donkey and her husband walking along side her?  Let’s catch up and talk to them.
(Use pictures or flannels showing Joseph and Mary and the story about Gabriel)
This man is Joseph and this is his wife Mary.  They have an incredible story to tell!  An angel named Gabriel appeared to Mary before she was married and said she was going to have a baby and He would be God’s Son.  Joseph had Gabriel appear to him one night while he was sleeping.  He told him that Mary would have God’s Son and His name would be Jesus because He was going to take away the sins of the world.
That must have been exciting news!  God had promised so many years ago that He would send a Savior and here Mary is pregnant with God’s Son who would take away the sins of the world!
How exciting to meet Mary and Joseph on our trip to Bethlehem!  Are you having fun yet?  When we travel someone almost always says, “Are we there yet?”  Well, it looks like we will have to stop for the night out here in the desert.  It is getting dark and I can tell you are looking pretty tired from all our walking.
Yawn! (Stretch as though you just woke up)  It is time to get going, I think if we move along we may make it to Bethlehem sometime today. What are some games you play when you travel on a road trip?  Sometimes we play I Spy.  Let’s play.  I spy with my little eye something that begins with “S”.  Sheep! (Use a sheep stuffed animal) Do you see all the sheep in this area?  We must be getting close to Bethlehem because that’s what most people do for a living there.  They farm and take care of sheep.
Hey look there are some shepherds coming our way now.  They look pretty excited!  “Hi!  We are on our way to Bethlehem, are we headed in the right direction?”
“You sure are!  What a day for you to come to this town!  Your first stop has got to be the stable near the big Inn.  We have just seen the Savior of the world!”
“You have? Tell us about it!”
“Well, the other night my friends and I were ready to sleep and just as we started to doze off under the star-lit sky a bright light shone around us and an angel appeared.  It was frightening but the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, I have brought you good news that is for all people. In the city of David (another name for Bethlehem), a Savior, Christ the Lord has been born. You will find Him lying in a manger wrapped in swaddling cloths.”
After the angel told us this message a multitude of angels appeared and praised God saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
As soon as the angels left we jumped up, and headed to Bethlehem.  I know it was the middle of the night but we could not wait another second to go and meet the Savior of the world!  So we went into Bethlehem and we found Him just as the angel said.  He was lying in a feed box wrapped in cloths!  You have got to go see Him.  He is the Promised Savior that we have been waiting for God to send!  He will save you from your sins!  Go, quick!”
How can we stand here after hearing a story like that?  Let’s hurry!
This must be the cave the shepherds told us about let’s look inside. (Using a whisper voice) “Hey, that’s Mary and Joseph that we talked to on our way here a couple of days ago. Hi! We heard about the Baby!  We ran into some shepherds who were very excited.  They told us all about the Savior of the world!  Can we see?  (Hold baby doll) He’s so precious!”
Ok, it’s time to head back to (the current year).  What a road trip that was!  We met the Savior of the world in Bethlehem!  God kept His promise to send the Savior.  That was over 2000 years ago when Jesus was born.  He didn’t stay a baby but grew to be a man.  As an adult man He was nailed to a cross for my sins and yours so we could be forgiven from our sins and have everlasting life.  God promises that all who believe in the Lord Jesus will have eternal life (John 3:16).  Do you believe God’s promise?  Have you received the gift of eternal life?  Many times when we go on a vacation we bring back a souvenir. (Show a souvenir from a trip you took) The greatest souvenir you could bring back from our trip to Bethlehem is to be saved from your sins and become a Child of God.  That is a souvenir that would last forever!
Close in prayer.

Review Questions:

  1. What are some events that happened in Bethlehem?  (Rachel buried, Ruth gave birth to Obed-David’s grandfather)
  2. What promise did God make about Bethlehem?  (The Savior would be born there)
  3. Why did Mary and Joseph have to travel there?  (Caesar wanted everyone to return to the town they were born in so they could be counted)
  4. How did the shepherds learn that the Savior was born?  (Angels appeared and told them)
  5. Who can you share the Good News with during this Christmas season?

Christmas Sunday School LessonsWait there’s more . . .
You can browse all of our printable Christmas Lessons and coloring pages. Our free materials are perfect to use in your church, home, or school. There is no charge and you are welcome to copy as many as you like.

1 thought on “Sunday School Lesson: Back to Bethlehem”

  1. One thing I noticed is that is says it’s about an 8 mile journey. Maybe it was supposed to say 80 miles?
    It’s a neat idea to travel this way with the kids though. Thanks for the idea!

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