Youth Ministry Christmas Ideas Featuring “The First Christmas”

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The First Christmas.

A guest post from Grahame. Part of a Christmas series of youth activities and talks, ‘The First Christmas’ takes a fresh look at the historical account of the birth of Jesus. The thoughts and feelings of the main characters are brought to life through the group discussion, role play and interviews.

Read the story in a modern version of the bible. The texts are Luke 1:26-38, Luke 2:1-20, Matthew 1:18-25 and Matthew 2:1-18. If necessary, explain any unusual words in the story. Engage the young people with an interactive reading including narrator(s), angel(s), wise men, King Herod, King Herod’s adviser’s and shepherds. Have Bibles available for the group discussion or print the passages on a worksheet.

Divide the young people into small groups of 4 to discuss the reactions of one of the main characters in the story. Give a character or character ‘group’ to each small group of young people.

Mary-when first told she was to be Jesus’ mother
Joseph-when he learned his fiancé was pregnant
Mary and Joseph-when told they would have to journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem for the census
Shepherds-when they heard the message from the angels and went to see the baby
Wise men-their compelling desire to visit the new king in spite of the long journey to get there
Herod-when he discovered there was a new king whom he thought would challenge his own position.

Points for the young people to consider in their ‘character’ discussion:

1. What were their immediate reactions or feelings?
2. How did these change as they were told and understood more?
3. What did they do?
4. Why did they do this and what did it show?

After a time of discussion the reactions can be shared with the rest of the group by;

Role play of different scenes
Writing a short piece in the form of a newspaper report (for the ‘Jerusalem Post’ or the ‘Bethlehem Evening Star’)
A ‘live’ on-the-ground interview with the character for local radio

Summarise the reactions of the different characters to the birth of Jesus. What is our reaction to the story of the first Christmas? How do we respond to the birth of Jesus? Is it just a story? Just an annual celebration? An opportunity to get that games console? The birth of a world religion? God demonstrating his love for mankind? God showing his love for me?


Background leader notes:

The story of the first Christmas is recorded in two gospels of Matthew and Luke which were both written around 60-90 AD. Matthew is generally considered to be the same Matthew who was a disciple (and ex-tax collector) who lived and worked with Jesus throughout the three years of his public ministry. As a Jew, writing for a Jewish audience, he was concerned with explaining the significant events which took place to fulfil the prophesies recorded in the Jewish scriptures, which we now call the Old Testament. Luke however, was writing for a Roman noble called Theophilus with the express purpose of producing a historically accurate record of events on which Theophilius could base his understanding of the Christian faith.

The two accounts, then, were written in different circumstances and with different readers in view. Consequently it is not possible to combine the two stories completely. Matthew, for instance, does not appear to be concerned with geography or chronology, so details of these have to be taken from Luke’s account. Luke does not mention the visit of the magi, whereas Matthew made sure his Jewish friends understood that Jesus was welcomed at this birth by both Jews and non-Jews. The stories are not inconsistent, simply reflections of the different perspectives of the authors.

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