Advent Nativity – Week 3: Shepherds

This olive wood nativity set was hand carved in Bethlehem. Roger and Mary Bailey purchased it on their first trip to the Holy Land in 1999.

I invite you and your family to join us on our journey to the manger as we prepare our hearts for Christmas.

The “Advent Nativity” series reads through the entire Christmas story from the Bible as we add a few pieces to the nativity scene each week. This week we’re putting up the shepherds.

Week 3: Shepherds

The past couple of weeks, we’ve talked about how God’s people had waited a long time for the Messiah. An angel appeared to Mary to tell her that she would have a baby. This baby would be Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah. Then an angel appeared to Joseph, her fiancee, in a dream. The angel told Joseph not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife because Jesus was a very special baby. (Read more here.)

Then they had to walk 100 miles over several days to get to Bethlehem for a special census. Pregnant Mary may have ridden a donkey, but it was still a long trip. When the got to Bethlehem, there were so many people that all the inns, the hotels, were full. One innkeeper was nice to them and said they could stay in the barn so they would at least have a place to sleep. That is where Mary had baby Jesus. His first bed was a feed trough full of hay. (Read more here.)

Let’s see what happened next.

Luke 2:8-20 (NIV)

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.

It is very peaceful being outdoors with just a bunch of sheep for company. Picture yourself out there with the shepherds. The sheep are doing well. You’re kicking back and looking at the hundreds of stars overhead. Maybe you’re thinking about where to go tomorrow where there would be good grass and calm water for the sheep.

Suddenly, something amazing happens!

An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you:

This is how you know you’ve found the right kid.

You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.

I’m sure Mary and Joseph were surprised when the shepherds showed up in the barn looking for a baby wrapped up in soft cloths and lying in a feed trough. How could they possibly know details like that? Then the shepherds told the new parents what happened to them. I bet Mary and Joseph’s eyes got big listening to their amazing story. I wonder if Mary and Joseph told the shepherds what the angel told them? The Bible doesn’t say, but it’s fun to think about.

What do you think the shepherds did next? (Allow children to answer.) Let’s see what happened when the shepherds left the barn.

17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

Did you catch that? They shepherds didn’t just say, “Ok, that’s done. Now, what’s for dinner?” No! They went and told everyone they could find about the angels appearing, what they said, and the special baby who had been born and laid in a manger.

The Bible also says that Mary thought long and hard after they left about what the shepherds had told them. That is what it means when it says, “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Mary knew this baby was special. The angel had told her that from the very beginning. Then comes these poor shepherds with their incredible tale. Mary might have been a little overwhelmed. I know I would be. Still, Mary knew God had a special plan for this child. She didn’t want to forget any of His story, so she “treasured up all these things in her heart,” making sure she’d never forget.

But wait! That’s not the end of the shepherds’ story. What do you think they did next? (Allow children to answer.) Let’s see what happened.

20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

The shepherds already told everyone they could find about Jesus and the angels. Then they had to get back to work and take care of their sheep. Still, their lives were changed forever. They didn’t go back to work by forgetting Jesus. No! They went back to work “glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” The shepherds knew Jesus was a special baby. They got to hear God’s special announcement that Jesus was the Messiah. The people of Israel had been waiting for this special person for a very long time. Now He was here!

I’m so excited that I just have to sing. Will you sing with me?

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