Use this Christmas Sunday School Lesson “An Angel Appears to Mary” to teach kids that God uses ordinary people. This lesson comes from the award-winning Hands-On Bible Curriculum.
Before the Lesson
- Collect the necessary items for the activities you plan to use, referring to the supplies listed on the chart.
- Pray for your students and for God’s direction as you teach the lesson.
If you’re reading through Luke 1, you find that today’s story of the foretelling of Jesus’ birth to Mary interrupts the story of John the Baptist. At the end of today’s story, Mary runs off to visit Elizabeth. After Mary’s song of praise (Luke 1:46-55), the story of the birth of John resumes.
We’re told very little about either Mary or Joseph in this passage. We only know that they were pledged to be married (a pledge that’s more binding than an engagement today), that Mary was a virgin, and that she apparently was chosen to be Jesus’ mother by virtue of being “highly favored” by God. Of all the Jewish men and women of all time, God chose Mary and Joseph to be the earthly guardians of his Son. These were humble, ordinary people who must have had an extraordinary relationship with God. They were willing to be used by God in whatever way he saw fit. And God used them in an extraordinary way!
Use this lesson to help your students see how God uses ordinary people—like them—who are committed to serving him.
- Read Acts 4:13.
- In what ways did God use these ordinary men? What made them different?
- How willing are you to be used by God in whatever way he sees fit?
- Pray: Lord, use me. Help me to be the person you want me to be in the lives of my students so that they will…
Explain to the kids that whenever you ring the bell, they are to stop talking, raise their hands, and focus on you. Explain that it’s important to respond to this signal quickly so the class can do as many fun activities as possible.
- “Will You Risk It?” handouts,
- rubber bands,
Before class, photocopy the “Will You Risk It?” handout (see the bottom of this post). Cut the assignments apart. Make enough copies so that each student will have an assignment. Put each assignment with one rubber band in a separate envelope. Seal the envelopes.
Say: You’re invited to take a risk today. You don’t have to take the risk, but if you do you must agree to do whatever the instructions inside the envelope ask you to do. If you take this risk, you may also be rewarded. I have an envelope for each of you. Who wants an envelope?
Distribute the envelopes. Have kids open their envelopes, complete their assignments, and then give you their rubber bands. As kids turn in their rubber bands, give each one a treat.
Will You Risk It? Debrief
- What thoughts went through your mind when you took an envelope? (I was curious to find out what was inside; I was afraid it might be a trick.)
- If you took an envelope, why did you decide to take a risk? (I thought it would be fun; I hoped there was a good reward.)
- If you didn’t take an envelope, why did you decide not to take a risk? (I thought it might not be worth it; I didn’t care if I got a reward.)
- What other risks do you take sometimes? (Volunteering to do a job for someone; trying to be someone’s friend.)
- How was this activity like other risks you might take? (You never know exactly how it will turn out; if you don’t take the risk, you might miss the reward.)
Say: In our activity, you had to take a risk before you got a reward. At first, some of the opportunities we have to serve God may seem a little risky to us. But the rewards of doing what God wants us to do can be wonderful. God uses ordinary people like you and me to do important things for him. Today we’ll learn how God used an ordinary young woman to bring his Son into the world.
Bible Exploration & Application: Musical Verses
- CD player,
Musical Verses Introduction
Set chairs in a circle. Place a Bible with a bookmark at Luke 1:26-38 under one chair. Have students stand inside the circle of chairs. Hold another Bible, and say: You don’t have to be rich or famous for God to use you. Listen while I read Luke 1:26‑27. This passage tells about Mary, the mother of Jesus.
Read Luke 1:26-27 aloud. Say: Jesus’ mother, Mary, wasn’t very old—possibly a young teenager. Most people didn’t know Mary or her family. But God chose Mary for the special purpose of giving birth to Jesus.
An angel told Mary she would give birth to Jesus. Let’s play a game to find out more about Mary. While the music plays, walk around the inside of the circle. When the music stops, sit down in the nearest chair.
Playing Musical Verses
Play some music, then pause it. Say: If you have a Bible under your chair, you’re our designated reader. Open the Bible to the marker, and read Luke 1:28-29 aloud.
After the student reads the verses, say: When Mary first saw the angel, she was confused and wondered what was going on. Imagine that an angel just appeared to you.
- What’s the first thing you might think if you saw an angel? (I’d be scared; I would wonder if it was a dream.)
Place the Bible under a different chair and play another round. Have the student identified as the reader read Luke 1:30-33 aloud. Then ask the class:
- How do you think Mary might have felt after hearing the angel’s message? (Excited; happy to be chosen; curious about how it would happen; scared.)
Place the Bible under a different chair. Continue playing music as kids walk around the inside of the circle. Push “pause,” identify the designated reader, and have that student read Luke 1:34-38 aloud.
After the student reads the verses, ask the class:
- Do you think you would have agreed to do what the angel said as Mary did? Explain. (Yes, I’d do what God wanted me to do; no, I might have said, “Let me think this over first.”)
- Why do you think God chose Mary to be Jesus’ mother? (Because she followed God; because she was nice; God knew she’d make a good mother.)
Place the Bible under another chair. Continue playing music as kids walk around the circle. Turn off the CD player, identify the designated reader, and have that student read Matthew 1:18-21 aloud. Then ask the class:
- Why do you think God chose Joseph to act as Jesus’ father? (Because he was a kind man; because God trusted him.)
Debriefing Musical Verses
Say: God could have chosen someone famous, someone important, or someone wealthy to bring his Son into the world. But he didn’t. Instead, God chose an unknown young woman who was willing to be his servant. God knew Mary would be a wonderful mother for Jesus and that Joseph would be a good earthly father. God didn’t care how famous or important Mary and Joseph were because God uses ordinary people.
Not only did God choose ordinary people to be Jesus’ parents on earth, but God also chooses ordinary people to be Jesus’ spiritual brothers and sisters. That’s right—Jesus was born on earth so that any ordinary person could become a child of God and have a relationship with him. Jesus loves ordinary me and ordinary you!
God Could Use Us!
- CD player
Say: We’ve already heard how God chose Mary to be the mother of Jesus. But how did Mary react to the news? Let’s look at Luke 1:28-29 again to find out.
Have kids follow along in their Bibles as you read Luke 1:28-29 aloud. Say: In these verses, Mary is confused about why God has chosen her and what the angel’s message might mean. Mary might have felt too young or unimportant for such a special task. Tell us about a time you thought you were too young to have something special happen to you. (My sister said summer camp was really fun, but I was too young to go; my brother gets to drive, but it’ll be zillions of years before I can drive.)
Say: God uses ordinary people, and his choices are often surprising. Let’s find out why. Have kids turn in their Bibles to 1 Samuel 16:7b, and ask for a volunteer to read the verse aloud: “The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Then ask:
- What ideas does this verse give you about why God chose Mary? (Mary was just an ordinary girl, but God knew her heart; she was nothing special, but God can use anyone whose heart is right.)
Say: God uses ordinary people like Mary, and God can use kids, too.
Breaking News Activity
Form teams of no more than five. (Teams can be as small as three kids.) Give each team paper and a pencil. Have teams choose a Writer to record the group’s news story, a Reporter to present the story to the class, and one or more Encouragers to help team members come up with ideas.
Say: With your team, take about five minutes to invent a story that could happen to someone your age who wants to make a difference for God.
Have one person on your team begin with a sentence such as “Today a 9-year-old girl made the news.” Then take turns adding sentences to your story until everyone has had at least one turn to add a sentence. After everyone has contributed to the story, you can agree to change the details if you want. Have the Writer in your group write down the main ideas of the story for the Reporter to present to the class.
Circulate among groups, and offer ideas to help kids get started. After five minutes, ring the clanging bell and wait for kids to respond. Then have teams present their stories to the class.
Breaking News Debrief
When the “newscast” is over, thank everyone for “tuning in.” Then ask:
- Do you think the stories you invented could really happen? Why or why not? (No, we just tried to make a good story; yes, people can make a big difference if they try and their hearts are right.)
- Would you be willing to do something like the characters in your stories did? Explain. (Yes, I’d love to help people in a special way; no, I wouldn’t know what to do; I’m not sure I could do that.)
Say: Like Mary, we may wonder why God would want to use us. We may feel awkward and nervous about doing something like [INSERT: the stories you made up]. But if we’re willing to get involved, God can use us in amazing ways. We know that God uses ordinary people—people like you and me. Let’s explore how God might use ordinary you and me in his plan.
Just a Piece of Paper
- colored computer paper,
- white paper,
- craft supplies,
- paper person cutout
Ordinary People Activity
Before class, draw a gingerbread-style person outline a piece of white paper. Make photocopies so that each student has one. Cut out the person shapes.
Give each child a person cutout and a piece of colored paper. Say: God used Mary, an ordinary young woman, to bring Jesus into this world. God uses ordinary people, even ordinary kids, to do great things for him.
You each have an ordinary person—a plain, white paper person. This ordinary paper person represents you, an ordinary person. Go ahead and glue your ordinary paper person to the middle of your piece of paper.
Pause as kids follow instructions. Then say: There you are, an ordinary person in the middle of an interesting world. Let’s add some features to make this ordinary person look more like you. Using the craft supplies, add facial features, hair, clothes, and anything else that would make this ordinary person look more like you.
As kids add their unique features, say: From the minute God created you, you were anything but ordinary. God had plans for the way you would look, act, feel, think, talk, and interact with others. He knows the hairs on your head—in fact, each one has a number! God made every aspect of you unique.
Give kids time to finish adding their features. Then say: But God has even bigger plans for you than just for your looks, thoughts, and feelings. God wants to use you to do amazing things for him, to encourage others, to help other Christians grow closer to Jesus, and to help people who don’t know Jesus have a relationship with him.
- What are some extraordinary ways God can use you in your ordinary life? (God can have me invite non-Christian friends to church; I can encourage people when they’re feeling down.)
- What is it like knowing that God can use you in amazing ways? (It surprises me; it feels good to know that God is powerful enough to use me.)
- What are some big things God might be preparing you to do for him in the future? (I might become a pastor; God might be preparing me to go to another country to share about Jesus; God might want me to open a shelter for homeless children.)
Say: On the outside of your person, draw or write ways you can serve God. These can be ordinary ways in your ordinary world, such as at school, with your family and friends, or in your neighborhood. They can also be huge ways to serve God in the future. No one knows exactly how God is going to use him or her, but remember that God can use you in extraordinary ways, so be creative.
Circulate among kids as they work. Offer ideas to get kids thinking of ways God can use them in their current roles and in the future. After about five minutes, ring the bell, and wait for kids to respond. Then say: I want you to take your poster home with you and refer to it in the coming weeks. Let it be a reminder that God uses ordinary people. And when God uses you for something, however small or huge, draw or write about it on your poster. Having these reminders can encourage us when we feel like just an ordinary person. Let’s find out more about encouragement.
Supplies: Bibles, scissors, markers, crepe paper, gift ribbon
Say: Mary wasn’t the only person who knew how special her baby would be. Listen to what Elizabeth, Mary’s relative, said.
Have kids look up Luke 1:39-45. Ask one volunteer to read aloud the narration in verses 39 to 41 and another volunteer to read aloud Elizabeth’s words to Mary, beginning with verse 42 and ending with verse 45. Have other kids follow along in their Bibles. When the readers finish, ask:
- How do you think Elizabeth made Mary feel? (Special; happy; honored.)
- How do you feel when someone encourages you? (Like I can do something special; like I have a friend; more confident.)
- What kinds of encouraging things could we say to each other? (“You’re a good friend”; “you’re smart”; we could tell people what they do well.)
Throw an Encouragement Party
Cut a foot-long piece of the crepe paper for each person, including yourself. Distribute the crepe paper pieces and markers, and have kids write their names on one side of their streamers.
Say: Let’s check out what the Bible says about encouragement.
Have kids look up 1 Thessalonians 5:11. When all kids have found the passage, ask a volunteer to read it aloud. Say: We’re going to do what this verse says and spend the next five minutes having an encouragement party. Trade papers with someone else, and write a note of encouragement to that person on the blank side of the streamer. Keep swapping with different people until you hear the signal. Hold on to the streamer you have when time is called, even if it’s not your own.
At the end of five minutes, ring the bell. Wait for kids to respond. Then give each person one piece of gift ribbon. Have kids roll up the streamers they’re holding and use the ribbon to tie them like diplomas. When kids have finished tying the streamers, ask them each to pray silently for the person whose streamer they’re holding. Then have them present the streamers to those people.
Give kids a minute or so to open their “diplomas.” Ring the bell, and wait for the kids to respond.
- What did you learn about encouraging others from this experience? (Sometimes it’s hard to know what to say; it makes people feel good; people like you when you encourage them.)
- How do you think God feels when we take time to encourage one another? (God likes us to encourage people; God wants us to encourage others more often.)
Say: When friends or family members encourage us, they remind us how special and important we are. We go from feeling ordinary to feeling special. Just as God used Elizabeth to encourage Mary, God uses ordinary people to spread encouragement to others.
Closing: Oh, the Things God Can Do With Me and With You!
Say: We’ve learned today that God uses ordinary people. God can use ordinary you and ordinary me to do extraordinary things for him. We only need to have willing hearts. Think about how God might use you this week.
- How might God use you at school? (God might use me to be friendly to someone who needs encouragement; God might use me to invite someone to Sunday school.)
- How might God use you at home? (God might use me to be nice to my little sister; God might use me to help my parents when they’re having a bad day.)
Have kids sit in a circle. Together practice saying, “Oh, the things God can do with me and with you.” Say: I’m going to pass a ball around the circle as we recite this sentence together. If you’re holding the ball at the end of the sentence, you must name one way God might use you this week.
After everyone has had an opportunity to participate, say: When we choose to serve God, God can use us to do extraordinary things. As you look for ways to serve others this week, remember that God uses ordinary people. God used Mary, and God can use you!
Will You Risk It? Handout
Cut on the dotted lines:
Your assignment is to tell three people why you’re glad they’re here today. When you’ve completed your task, take the loop from your envelope and give it to your teacher.
Congratulations on taking this risk!
Your assignment is to pat three people on the back and give them each a big smile. When you’ve completed your task, take the loop from your envelope and give it to your teacher.
Congratulations on taking this risk!
Your assignment is to say to three people, “It’s a great day to be alive! Gimme five!” and give them each a high five. When you’ve completed your task, take the loop from your envelope and give it to your teacher.
Congratulations on taking this risk!
Your assignment is to shake hands with three people and say, “It’s a special day, and you’re a special person.” When you’ve completed your task, take the loop from your envelope and give it to your teacher.
Congratulations on taking this risk!
This creative Christmas Sunday school lesson comes from the innovative Hands-On Bible Curriculum.