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When Shepherds Came

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WHEN SHEPHERDS CAME 

Scripture: Matthew 1:18–24; Luke 1:26–38, 2:1-20

Memory verse: Luke 2:18
“All who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.”

Lead—In

The birth of Jesus is familiar to most of your students. Consider using this activity to test your students’ understanding of the events surrounding Jesus’ birth. Before class, print the following words on separate slips of paper.

  1. Star                      6. Taxes
  2. Manger                  7. Angels
  3. Hay                       8. Baby
  4. Stable                    9. King Herod
  5. Inn                        10. Shepherds

Distribute the slips of paper to volunteers. Begin with the student who drew the item numbered 1. Have him come to the chalkboard and draw a picture to convey what is written on his slip of paper. When the other students think they know what the object is, they should raise their hands. The first student to do so must say what the object is and explain its importance to the story of the birth of Christ.

Make sure the student who received the word shepherds is the last one to draw on the chalkboard. Discuss why the shepherds are considered an important part of the story. Compare their common job with the work of King Herod or the innkeeper. Explain that although a shepherd’s job was not glamorous or lots of fun, God chose shepherds to play a most important role on the first Christmas.

Hearing God’s Word

The shepherds played an important part in the story of the birth of Jesus. God sent His angels first to some shepherds with the news of Jesus’ birth. As you listen to this week’s Bible study, try to decide why God might have chosen shepherds instead of the innkeeper in Bethlehem or the Wise Men.

The Life of a Shepherd

Long before David became king of Israel, he watched over his father’s sheep. Before he led the Israelites out of Egypt, Moses shepherded his father-in-law’s sheep for 40 years. Jacob, for whom the tribes of Israel were named, had sons who were shepherds. Many shepherds have lived since Adam and Eve’s son Abel, the first shepherd.

Shepherds walked many miles searching for grass in the dry lands of Palestine. They watched closely to protect their sheep from wild animals. Most shepherds loved their sheep and could tell one sheep from another. The sheep also knew their shepherd so well that when they heard his voice, they would follow. No other man could trick sheep into following him.

Since caring for the sheep was a shepherd’s way of making a living, he would often stay with the sheep day and night. Sometimes several shepherds would bring their flocks together at night into one sheepfold. The walls of the fold protected the sheep from thieves and wild animals. One shepherd might sleep or stand guard at the door of the fold while the others slept. The shepherds’ daily routine was the same. But something wonderful happened to one group of shepherds.

An Angel Appears to the Shepherds

These shepherds were on the hills near Bethlehem. The night was dark and quiet as usual. Suddenly an angel appeared before the shepherds and a light shone all around them.

Ask: “How do you suppose the shepherds felt?” (Allow discussion. Ask a couple of students to read Luke 2:8, 9.)

The shepherds were afraid. They always had to be on guard for wild animals and thieves, but this was something none of them ever expected to see.

How did the angel reassure the shepherds? (Ask a student to read Luke 2:10–12.) The angel told them not to be afraid. He had come to share good news with them. That night in the village of Bethlehem, a baby had been born who was very special. If the shepherds wanted to see the Baby, they would find Him wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.

Just as the angel finished his message, an army of angels appeared praising God. What did the angels say? (Read Luke 2:13, 14.)

Ask: “Why would the angels rejoice over the birth of a baby in a stable?” (Allow discussion.)

The Shepherds Find Jesus

After the angels left, the shepherds rushed to Bethlehem and began searching for the Baby. When they found Mary and Joseph and Baby Jesus, they probably excitedly told what the angel had said. Mary and Joseph may have also told about their own angelic messages. (Ask a student to read Matthew 1:18–24 and Luke 1:26-38. Discuss how Mary and Joseph may have felt upon hearing the angels’ messages.) Now the shepherds learned why the Baby was so special. Mary was Jesus’ mother, but God was Jesus’ father. God had sent His Son to earth to save all people. The angels were rejoicing at God’s love for man.

Jesus was Born in a Stable

Ask: “Do you think the shepherds wondered why Mary and Joseph were spending such an important night in a stable with farm animals?” (Allow response. Ask a student to read Luke 2:7.)

Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem because of a census or “counting” ordered by Caesar Augustus, the Roman emperor. Many others had come to Bethlehem to be counted also.

By the time Mary and Joseph arrived in the little village, all the rooms in town were full. Both of them were tired from the journey from Nazareth. Mary had probably walked or ridden a donkey the entire way and it was almost time for her baby to be born. Even in her condition, they were turned away from the usual places people stayed because all the rooms were already filled with visitors. Finally someone took pity and allowed them to stay in a stable.

Do you think God could have provided a better place for Jesus’ birth? God can do anything.

Ask: “Why do you think God allowed His Son to be born in a stable?” (Allow responses.)

God had sent His Son to be the Saviour of all people. Everyone would expect God’s Son to be born in perfect surroundings. But perhaps God wanted people to believe in Jesus because of who He is, not because He was born into wealth and honour. (Allow the students to make other suggestions.) We do not know the reason for Jesus’ being born in a stable, but we do know God showed His love for each of us that night.

The Shepherds Spread the News

After the shepherds left Jesus, Mary and Joseph, they spread the word about what had happened to them that night. Our memory verse tells us: “All who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them” (Luke 2:18). (Repeat the memory verse with the students.)

Ask: “Why do you suppose God sent His angels first to the shepherds with the news about Jesus’ birth? Why did the angels not tell King Herod instead?” (Allow discussion.)

Part of the angel’s message probably gives the best reason. God sent His Son Jesus to save all people. The shepherds had much more in common with most people in Palestine than did the king.

We Can Spread the News

If God were going to choose someone in today’s world to receive the angel’s message, whom might He choose? If you had received the message from the angel, to whom would you tell the news? Among others, you could tell your family, schoolmates, and neighbours.

Jesus came so everyone could be forgiven for their sins. It is our responsibility to share this happy news with others, just as the shepherds did that first night when Jesus was born. Jesus has come!

Accepting God’s Word

Remind the students that the angels appeared to ordinary men who did ordinary work. God cares for all people and wants everyone to know the Saviour has come. Jesus had to come because everyone is a sinner and is spiritually lost until his sins are forgiven. We needed someone to save us from the punishment for our sins. Jesus came to earth to save us.

Tell the students they can make this a very special time by asking Jesus to be their Saviour if they have never done so.

Heart for the Zigula 

My heart went out to the Zigula. They are so poor, so deceived by the devil and so isolated from the outside world. Truly they are an unreached people group who need a committed messenger to live among them. May God be gracious to the Zigula!

Zigula Prayer

Lord, it is with a heart filled with love for the Zigula people that we come to you. Just as the thief on the cross next to Jesus at the time of His crucifixion cried out, "Remember me when you come into your kingdom" (Luke 23:42) so I cry out to You in behalf of the Zigula. "Remember the Zigula" is our prayer.

Remember the Zigula and send Your Holy Spirit to convict them of their sin and a messenger to clearly declare the good news of salvation. May they respond and commit themselves to follow Jesus as Lord and Saviour.

Let a mighty church arise to spread Your Word across the land. Be glorified among the Zigula! Amen. 

Remember: WHEN SHEPHERDS CAME 

Memory verse: Luke 2:18
“All who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.”

1. The Spirit of God became a human being. His name is Jesus.
2. Jesus came to earth with a purpose—to provide salvation for everyone. That is good news!
3. Jesus, by the work of the Holy Spirit, lives in me. As His messenger, I will share the good news with everyone.

Pray for the Zigula to respond to the message of the gospel.

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Study 16 Prayer Power / Holy Spirit | africaatts.org/go-teach

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