Birth of john the Baptizer lesson gospels New Testament Advent Christmas

Birth of John the Baptist

The week after I hype the kids up on sugar with our Jesus’ Family Tree lesson, I have the poor kids be completely silent in our Sunday School class because Zechariah couldn’t talk during the birth of John the Baptist, poor kids.

Birth of John the Baptist Christmas lesson

Yeah, I don’t really feel sorry for them.

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What can we learn from the Birth of John the Baptist?

birth of John the Baptist lesson Zechariah's reaction

It’s interesting to me to compare the announcement of Jesus’ birth and the announcement of John’s birth.  Zechariah gets the news, and he doesn’t believe at first, and he can’t speak for nine months.  Mary gets the news and doesn’t believe, but then understands and praises God.  I always feel sorry for Zechariah, there’s something missing in the explanation given in the Bible because he has a similar response to Mary and she gets to keep speaking.  I wonder if his response went like this: “Are you crazy God?  My wife is ancient, and I’m no spring chicken,” and his response was rude and sarcastic.  Whereas Mary’s was more of trying to gain more information.  I’ve heard many sermons preached this way, but I just don’t know for sure what’s going on here.  If anyone can give me good evidence on the difference I’d love to hear it.

birth of John the baptist Mary's reaction

But the big thing I notice when I read this part of the Bible, Mary’s willingness to be used by God.  This is a poor country girl, yes girl because she was probably in her early teens, and engaged to be married.  God said, “You’re going to have a baby,” and Mary knew full well what that might mean, and she still said, “Yes God, I will serve you.”  That’s guts, gumption, however you want to phrase it, she’s got it.    This is next week’s lesson, but her decision nearly costs her everything.

I haven’t been in a position where following God will cause major sacrifices, but I’d like to think I’d be willing to make them.  I won’t know until I’m in that position.

Birth of John the Baptist activities

Christmas story charades

Zechariah was mute for nine months, or somewhere around that time.  I’m betting he got really good at charades during that time, so I always like to have the kids play charades.  I try to give them Christmas related ideas to act out, but it’s fun to see what they do.  In case you’re wondering here’s what we came up with: sheep, cow, angel, dog, bat (because they were in a cave for the stable), shepherd, Mary, Joseph, donkey, wise men, chicken (because of course a stable will also have a chicken)

birth of John the Baptist object lesson

This is going to seem a little strange but stay with me for a moment.  At the start of the story Zechariah is sacrificing to God for Israel’s sins, or one of the many other required sacrifices.  I drew the parallel from that to what Jesus did on the cross.  We all sat there and wrote our sins on a piece of scrap paper.  Then we tore it up into small pieces and burned those pieces in a can.  This is to show how thoroughly and completely God has destroyed our sin because of what Jesus did on the cross.  Now I can’t do this with my current Sunday School class which has been known to get up to 40 kids, but I would do it with a class of around 15 or so.

Birth of john the Baptizer lesson gospels New Testament Advent Christmas

Birth of John the Baptist resources

There’s some fun stuff to do with this lesson, and not too surprisingly everyone loves to share about such a happy miracle.

Check out the rest of the Christmas Story Unit, or see what happens next with the birth of Jesus.


6 responses to “Birth of John the Baptist”

  1. I read something that pointed out there is a clear difference in the words they use. Z says, “How can I be sure of this?” which means that he’s NOT SURE that what the angel says will happen. Mary just says “How can this be?” which, as you point out, is asking for info on how it can happen, not saying that she doesn’t think it can.

    Also, I suppose, “How can I be sure of this?” is similar to asking, “Give me a sign,” – and so he got one!

  2. To get kids completely silent for the whole lesson? That must be a miracle in itself!

  3. Lorna McMurray Avatar
    Lorna McMurray

    Yes, as Luke 1:20 says, “…because you did not believe my words…” concerning Zachariah. The Holy Spirit through Elizabeth says concerning Mary in Luke 1:45, “Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished.”

    1. Good point, I hadn’t really noticed that.

  4. Hey Ticia,
    Thank you for posting this lesson. I also appreciate your comparison between Mary and Zachariah. As for wondering why their similar reactions receive different responses from the messenger, I have a thought.

    My thought is that the setting and the characters are very different. Mary is maybe 13 or 14 years old, is a “nobody” in the scheme of things, is alone, and would be very much scared of having a child due to her situation. So, when the messenger talks to her, her response of “How can this be” is perfectly normal based on what she’s facing.

    Zachariah is just the opposite. He’s a somebody. He and his wife would like to have a child. And, he has been selected for a very prestigious and holy task when the messenger talks to him about having a child. If ever there was a time to expect a message from God, Zachariah was in that moment. And yet, despite the good news he just received, despite his position as a priest, despite where Zachariah is (in the Sanctuary of the Lord) and despite the timing of the message, Zachariah is incredulous. We should be incredulous at Zachariah’s incredulity — c’mon Zachariah, you should EXPECT this! Seems like the messenger has a similar thought and is a little annoyed at him.

    1. That’s a good way of thinking about it, that I hadn’t thought of before.

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