Good Things Week 2- Jesus
| Never Have I Ever: Christmas Edition
Welcome back to Good Things, where we're looking forward to Christmas day and remembering Christmases past! INSTRUCTIONS: Have all of your students stand to begin the game. Depending on the number of students you have and how long you'd like the game to last, give everyone between one and five lives. To play, list things students might have done during past Christmases. If a student has done it, they lose a life and must sit down when they've run out of lives. You may want to give your last students standing a prize (like Christmas candy or cookies). Try statements like, "Never have I ever . . . "
"Re-gifted a present." "Worn an ugly Christmas sweater." "Known all the reindeer names." "Had Christmas decorations up after January 1." "Forgot to invite someone to my Christmas party." "Christmas shopped on Christmas Eve." "Listened to Christmas music before December 1." "Peeked at my Christmas presents." "Opened a Christmas present and re-wrapped it to hide the evidence." "Watched Christmas movies when it wasn't Christmas." "Forgot to buy a present for my Secret Santa." "Pranked someone with a terrible gift."
VIDEO | A Clip from "I Gave My Kids a Terrible Present" (Jimmy Kimmel)
Most people could probably say, "Never have I ever been pranked by my own parents on Christmas morning," but that's not true for these kids.
INSTRUCTIONS: As a teaching tool, play a short clip from a video like this one of parents giving their kids terrible Christmas presents — choose your favorite 30-second clip.
A prank like this one is pretty risky! It can result in a funny and adorable memory you can enjoy for years . . . or it could result in a total meltdown and ruin Christmas completely.
Christmas isn't Christmas without a little catastrophe, am I right? Gifts get lost in the mail. Someone breaks that weird (but very cute) Play-Doh ornament you made when you were six. There's a big fight during Christmas dinner. Your family's overly aggressive light display knocks out the power in your entire city. You know, the usual. But what if I told you these little mistakes and big catastrophes aren't just interruptions to the Christmas season? What if I told you they actually have a lot to do with why we need Christmas in the first place?
SO WHAT? Why does it matter to God and to us?
QUESTION | "What is Christmas all about?"
You might be familiar with the phrase, "Jesus is the reason for the season." But what does that mean? What exactly are we celebrating? What is Christmas all about?
INSTRUCTIONS: Give a few students a chance to respond. Encourage a variety of answers.
Usually when people talk about the Christmas season, they talk about joy, peace, and the gift of baby Jesus. Of course, all of those things are true! But here's another way to think about it. Maybe . . .
We long for joy because we're familiar with sadness. We want peace because we're so often in conflict. We celebrate the gift of Jesus because He's a gift we desperately needed. At Christmastime (and all the time) sometimes our plans go badly, things get broken, and relationships get damaged. That's the human condition.
We humans mess up and make mistakes sometimes. Sometimes we make small mistakes that hardly get noticed. But other times we make huge mistakes that really hurt us or others. In Scripture, this tendency toward brokenness is often called "sin." Sin is anything less than God's best. Sin is something we do by choice. Sin often happens when we act selfishly, only caring about what we want, instead of thinking about what God wants or how our actions affect other people. When we sin, we damage our relationship with God and others. So why am I talking about sin at Christmastime? Great question!
Last week, we saw how this season before Christmas (the season of Advent) is all about reflecting on God's plans for the world and waiting for God's plans to become reality. Like we saw last week, God's plans are good! It has always been God's plan to restore the brokenness in the world, clean up the mess we've left, and heal the wounds we've given ourselves and each other. And Christmas is a vital part of that plan.
SCRIPTURE | Malachi 3:1-2
Last week, we saw some of God's plan for humanity unfold over time.
It started in Genesis with the promise of a child who would one day come to defeat sin forever. Then over the span of thousands of years, God left more clues about what was in store. King David learned the coming king would be one of his descendants. Then the prophet Jeremiah said the Savior was still on the way, and that God's promise to send Him was still good. Today I want to introduce you to another prophet named Malachi, who gave God's people yet another hint about the Savior who was to come.
“I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty. But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap.
First, God will send a messenger. Then God will come. God will come to refine and to cleanse us from sin. The people who heard Malachi's prophecy might have been thinking, "Uh, who is this messenger? When is God coming? What's getting set on fire? And what's this about laundry?"
SCRIPTURE | Mark 1:1-8
For answers, let's skip ahead to the book of Mark, because it's there that we finally see this prophecy fulfilled. \
The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, as it is written in Isaiah the prophet: “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way”— “a voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’ ” And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
Finally, hundreds of years after Malachi recorded his prophecy, we finally got some answers!
The messenger Malachi promised was John the Baptist. God did arrive on earth shortly after John. God showed up in the form of Jesus — a baby who was born shortly after John was born. Then, after Jesus and John had both grown up, Jesus began his ministry shortly after John began his. Before Jesus got started preaching His message, John was already preaching messages about our need to be forgiven of our sins to help prepare people for Jesus. Sounds a lot like what Malachi promised would happen, right? So who was John the Baptist?
He was sort of weird. He had an "open concept" home in the desert (no home at all). His wardrobe was made of camel hair. He loved a good bug and honey sandwich. You know — typical prophet stuff. Despite his odd persona, John's mission and message were perfectly clear. He existed to prepare people for Jesus. But when John arrived on the scene, people had their prophecies a little confused. They weren't sure who John was. Was he the Savior God had promised? When he was asked if he was the Savior God had promised, John was like, "No! He's coming soon, and He's way greater than I am!" While everyone waited on Jesus, John had three jobs:
POINT PEOPLE TO JESUS:
John's primary role was to announce that the best part of God's plan was coming, and it wasn't him. Jesus was on the way!
CALL PEOPLE TO CHANGE:
John called anyone who would listen to change their hearts and lives because God was on the way. John knew following God has the power to transform us inside and out. That's true for individuals and the whole world too!
INVITE PEOPLE TO BE BAPTIZED:
As an outward sign of an internal commitment to transformation, John baptized people with water to show they had died to their old life and were beginning a new life in God. God's people had been waiting a long time for God's plan to be complete. They were so eager to meet the Savior God promised that they wanted John to be the answer! But John knew he wasn't the last piece in God's puzzle. His role was to point people to the One who was: Jesus, the only one who could address humanity's sin problem. When Jesus finally began His ministry, Scripture says John looked and Jesus and said, "Look! The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world."
SCRIPTURE | Matthew 1:21-23
In case you needed anymore help seeing what our sin has to do with Christmas, check this out. When Mary and Joseph, the early parents of Jesus, found out they were going to have a baby, listen to how it's announced to them.
She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
The Christmas story is a story of joy, peace, and celebration, not in spite of our brokenness and sin, but exactly because of it.
Jesus came to earth on the very first Christmas, not so we could have a fun holiday gift exchange, but because we desperately needed to be rescued from our brokenness. God has always had a plan to rescue us. It started in Genesis, was further revealed through the prophets, and entered its endgame the moment Jesus appeared. Christmas celebrates the long-awaited coming of Jesus, God Himself, who came to take away the sins of the world.
Jesus completes God's plan.
NOW WHAT? What does God want us to do about it?
RESPONSE | Receiving Jesus' Love
The Bible tells us Jesus is God Himself, come to earth — Emmanuel, "God with us." Just like the prophets prophesied so long ago, God was on the way. When God finally arrived, He chose to show up not as a conquering king, but as a helpless baby named Jesus. The Bible also tells us Christmas is a day to celebrate the coming of a Savior who would take away the sins of the world.
Jesus came to restore the brokenness and take away the sins of everyone who has ever lived — including you and me. Does that help you see just how much God loves you? There is nothing you have to do to earn God's love. You've had since before you even existed. Even in the earliest days of humanity, your Creator already had a plan in place to rescue you. Through Jesus, all of the broken things in the world and our lives can be healed, restored, forgiven, and made new. As you're preparing to give and receive gifts with each other this Christmas, don't forget to receive the gift that's been offered to you by God: despite our sin, the unconditional love of Jesus. How? You have a few options.
Is it hard to love or forgive yourself? Do you have difficulty loving or forgiving others just as they are? How can you get more comfortable with embracing God's love for you and others?
Is there anything you need to abandon? Is there a sin you need to let go of? Can you identify an attitude you have that gets in the way of embracing God's love for you? Have you built walls to keep God or others out? Is anything worth letting go of so God can fill you with more good things?
Is there anything you need to forgive or have forgiven? Do you need to take any of your sins and mistakes to God? Do you need to forgive yourself because you're someone who beats themselves up over mistakes? Do you hold a grudge against someone who has hurt you? How can you find forgiveness for yourself or others?
Do you have a struggle, behavior, or habit that feels impossible to change? What do you wish God would make right? What in your life do you need God to transform?
INSTRUCTIONS: Before your teaching time, wrap four boxes with Christmas wrapping paper and cut a slit in the top where note cards can be inserted. Print and cut the handouts provided in your Week 2 folder and place one under each seat, along with a pen. While you play some soft Christmas or worship music, encourage students to write down their next step and place it in the box that best describes what they need to do.
MUSIC | "O Come O Come Emmanuel" (Maverick City Music)
Yes, Christmas is a time for joy, peace, and celebration, but let's not forget why those things are so sweet.
We long for joy because we're familiar with the sadness our sin brings. We want peace because we're so often in conflict. We celebrate the gift of Jesus because He's a gift we desperately needed. God's original plan for us and the world was really good, but sin damaged our relationships with God and each other. But God has always had a plan, and that plan was always good. God's plan rights our wrongs. It brings healing and hope to our catastrophes. It restores our relationship with God. It's this plan that we celebrate every Christmas. As you continue preparing for Christmas day, remember what we've seen about Jesus today:
Jesus was born because we all needed to be rescued from our own sin and brokenness. Jesus was born so God could be with us. Jesus was born so you'd know you're loved. Deep down in your bones, down to the last hair on your head, I hope you know God loves you just as you are.
Jesus was born to complete God's plan.
INSTRUCTIONS: Play the song “O Come O Come Emmanuel” (Maverick City Music)