I’ve written before about my LOGOS middle school Bible study class (Middle Schoolers and Politics). Last night we discussed the story of Jesus’ birth. We sat around a long table and on a large piece of paper I drew a line across the center to begin a timeline. I was corrected that it was an event line, not a timeline, because I wasn’t planning to include dates.
Using the event line, I asked them to share what they already knew about the story of Jesus’ birth. The first person said they came to Bethlehem for the “count.” “Who is they?” I prodded. From there we placed events and names and places before and after:
Jesus was born in a barn (I was trying not to over correct though it was all I could do not to quote Ken Bailey)
Animals were there
An angel told Mary that she would give birth
They had trouble finding a place to stay (Ken Bailey again)
Shepherds came to see the baby
Wise men came to see the baby
I nudged that last event farther down the event line than they wanted to put it. A couple of years later. The youth weren’t convinced I knew what I was talking about. I moved on.
And then we read the story from Luke around the table, stopping to fill in more events.
Elizabeth was Mary’s cousin and also pregnant (bonus points for the one who knew that was John the Baptist)
Mary and Joseph came to Bethlehem from Nazareth
An angel spoke to the shepherds
Some were astonished that there was no mention of kings or wise men in Luke. I asked them to research between now and next Wednesday where the wise men are mentioned in the Bible and what is written about them.
We moved on to a new large piece of paper to create what I would loosely describe as a crossword puzzle without clues. First, they each had to think of three words, names, or places that were important to the story and not let the others see what they were writing.
The first person chose “Bethlehem” and wrote it in the center of the paper. Then they took turns adding one of their words by finding a letter in an existing word to attach their word to. For instance, “Jesus” was written using one of the “e’s” and “Mary” using the “m.” After each took a turn, it became a bit of a free-for-all as they added their words and thought up new ones.
What some lacked in spelling, they made up for in enthusiasm.
It would be interesting to do the same exercise with adults. We are all greatly influenced by some of the songs we sing, plays we perform and movies we watch about the birth of Jesus. What’s helpful is going to the best source we have for the story—the Bible.
P.S. I forgot to describe the conversation around "virgin birth" for those who asked, "What's a virgin?" Mixed reaction. All good.