1. Surprise Packages—Before class, gift-wrap one small and one large box. Fill a grocery bag with newspaper and put a baby Jesus figurine or picture in it. Staple the bag shut. When children arrive, show them the packages.
Say: Part of the fun of getting presents is not knowing what’s inside.
Have children guess what might be in the packages. Place the packages around the room. Have children sit by the gift they want to open. When everyone is seated, ask why they chose the package they chose. Don’t open the packages yet.
Say: Sometimes the wrapping can surprise us. A plain package might hold something very valuable. Today, our story is about a gift from God that came in a plain wrapper.
Have the children remain where they are for the story.
2. A Surprise Story—Tell the children to listen carefully for surprises in the story as you read aloud Luke 1:26-38 and Luke 2:1-20.
Afterward, ask: What unexpected events happened? Who was surprised? Who did the surprising? How did the people respond?
Have the children do a thumbs-up or thumbs-down sign to indicate happy or unhappy surprises as you review these events from the story*: An angel told Mary she would have a baby; Joseph and Mary had an unexpected trip right when the baby was due; the inn was full when they got to Bethlehem; they found room in a stable; angels announced Jesus’ birth to the shepherds; God’s Son came to earth as an ordinary baby.
Let the children open the packages. Hold up the Jesus figurine or picture.
Say: Sometimes, great things come in plain wrappers. Jesus was God’s happy surprise for the world.
3. Surprise Prayer—Have children form a circle and hold hands. *Pray: Thank you, God, for surprising us with your love.
Go around the circle, allowing everyone to say thanks for something. Then have children raise their hands high and shout “Amen!”
4. Gift Bags—Provide paper lunch bags, scissors, glue, and assorted fabric and paper scraps. Have children each cut and glue scraps to the outside of their bag to make a manger scene. Use cotton balls for sheep, paper doilies for angel wings, and glitter or foil for stars. When children are finished, have them each fold over an inch at the top of their bag and punch two holes. Thread ribbon or yarn through the holes and tie a bow. Encourage children to use the bags to wrap a surprise gift for someone special.
5. Snack—Food for Thought:
You’ll need: Plain sugar cookies cut in a variety of Christmas shapes, ready-to-spread icing, decorator sprinkles, and blunt knives.
Directions: Let children frost and decorate a cookie in whatever way they wish. As they spread the icing, talk about spreading the news of Jesus’ birth. As they add the sprinkles, talk about the joyful celebration of Christmas. Before they eat, encourage them to exchange cookies. Talk about sharing gifts of love.