Key Passage: John 1:14 “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father.”

Big Picture Question: Where was Jesus born? Jesus was born in Bethlehem as God promised.

Christ Connection: Jesus was born! This was very good news! Jesus was not like other babies. He is God’s Son. God sent Jesus to earth from heaven. Jesus came into the world to save people from their sins. Jesus came to be their King.

Dear Parents,

Thank you for continuing this journey of The Gospel Project® for Kids. Last unit, kids learned about God’s plan for John the Baptist, the forerunner of the Savior. Over the next six weeks, kids will learn that God’s plan of redemption is Jesus. Today’s Bible story is about Jesus’ birth. The story of Jesus’ birth is usually told in December, although we do not truly know Jesus’ actual birth date. Sometimes the story of Jesus’ birth gets lost in the shuffle of Christmas lists, familiar carols, and trips to Grandma’s house. This time, though, we can focus on the details of God’s plan to send Jesus to save mankind from sin.

The first Christmas did not take place on a special holiday. In fact, the only real news at that time was that Caesar Augustus had demanded a census to collect more tax revenues. Because of the census, Bethlehem was packed. Joseph—a descendant of King David—and his pregnant wife could not find a place to stay. Mary desperately needed a place to stay—the Savior was ready to be born! An innkeeper let the couple stay in a stable, and Mary gave birth to the King of kings and placed Him in a feeding trough.

Not far from Bethlehem, shepherds were watching their sheep at night. Little did they know, the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world was resting in a manger nearby. When the angel appeared, they were terrified! Thankfully the angel gave the best news: the Messiah was born. They could find Him in Bethlehem. (See Luke 2:10-11.) They hurried to find the Savior, just as the angel had told them. After they found Baby Jesus, they returned home, praising God and telling others about Jesus.

The Bible says Mary wondered about all of these things and treasured them in her heart. Do you think the shepherds may have done the same? The birth of Jesus was good news! Jesus was not an ordinary baby. He is God’s Son, sent to earth from heaven. Jesus came into the world to save people from their sins and to be their King.

Family Activity: Encourage each family member to cut out a good news headline from a newspaper or magazine and past or tape them below. Invite each family member to share something good that happened that day. Talk about why Jesus’ birth was very good news.

Key Passage: Luke 1:76 “And child, you will be called a prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare His ways.”

Big Picture Question: Why was John the Baptist special? John the Baptist told people about Jesus.

Christ Connection: Long ago, God’s prophets said, One day Jesus will come.” Finally, a prophet named John said, “Jesus is almost here!” John the Baptist told people to get ready for Jesus. He said Jesus was coming to be King over the whole world.

Dear Parents,

Thank you for continuing this journey of The Gospel Project® for Kids. Today’s Bible story is about John’s birth. Shortly after Mary left Elizabeth and returned home, the time came for Elizabeth to give birth to her baby. For the duration of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, her husband, Zechariah, had been mute. His inability to speak was punishment for his doubting the angel who foretold John’s birth. (See Luke 1:20.)

Elizabeth gave birth to a son, and her friends and family rejoiced with her—just as the angel Gabriel had said. (See Luke 1:14.) Everyone had assumed the baby would be named after his father, but Zechariah was clear: HIS NAME IS JOHN.

In Luke 1:66, the people wondered, “What then will this child become?” John would grow up to be an evangelist. He would be spiritually strong. John’s ministry would be brief, but through the power of the Holy Spirit, he would lead thousands to repentance. He would humbly prepare the way of the Lord with this aim: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). John would gain thousands of followers and then joyfully hand them over to Jesus as the groom’s friend who rejoices at the groom’s voice. (See John 3:29.) Then John would go to prison and ultimately be beheaded by King Herod. But Jesus Himself would say, “Among those born of women no one is greater than John” (Luke 7:28).

As you teach kids the story of John’s birth, talk about how John’s birth was prophesied by Isaiah. (Isaiah 40:3) A long time before Jesus was born, prophets said that Jesus would come. The prophets also said another man would come first to say, “Jesus is almost here!” John the Baptist told people to turn away from their sins because Jesus was coming to be King over the whole world.

Family Activity: Give each family member a brightly colored index card and a pencil or pen. Help them find Luke 1:76-77 in the Bible and copy the verses onto their index cards. Based on the verses, list some of the plans God had for John’s life. Let each family member choose a special place to display his or her card. Challenge your family to memorize these verses this week.

Key Passage: Luke 1:76 “And child, you will be called a prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare His ways.”

Big Picture Question: Why did Elizabeth’s baby leap in her belly? Elizabeth’s baby was happy because of Jesus.

Christ Connection: God kept His promise to send a Savior. This was good news! Before Jesus was born, people sang songs and thanked God for His Son. Mary and Elizabeth worshiped God because of Jesus.

Dear Parents,

Thank you for continuing this journey of The Gospel Project® for Kids. Today’s Bible story picks up after the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would be the mother of God’s Son, Jesus, although she was a virgin. Gabriel said with God all things are possible. Mary’s relative Elizabeth was also pregnant though Elizabeth was barren and well past childbearing age. Mary hurried to visit Elizabeth to share in the joy of their miraculous pregnancies.

Mary’s arrival brought great joy to both Elizabeth and Elizabeth’s unborn baby. In the presence of the unborn Messiah, John leaped in Elizabeth’s belly. Elizabeth was also filled with the Holy Spirit, and she said, “Mary, you are blessed!”

The story of Mary’s visit with Elizabeth gives us a remarkable picture of women living by faith. Being a young, unwed pregnant woman could have caused Mary to worry. Instead, her response is marked by her trust in God. Mary’s song reflects her knowledge of God’s Word and her understanding of who God is. God kept His promise to Abraham and his descendants. The coming of the promised Savior was good news! Before Jesus was born, people rejoiced and praised God for His Son. Mary and Elizabeth worshiped God because of Jesus.

Family Activity: Read Luke 1:39-56 aloud from the Bible. Talk about how happy Mary and Elizabeth were. If you have photos of your kids when they were babies, show them the photos. Lead them to read Psalm 139:13. Consider donating diapers or other baby items to a pregnancy care ministry or other ministry supported by your church.

Key Passage: Luke 1:76 “And child, you will be called a prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare His ways.”

Big Picture Question: Who announced John’s birth? An angel said that John would be born.

Christ Connection: God gave John a special job: to tell people that His Son, Jesus, was coming! John told the people what God said, and he told them to get ready to meet Jesus.

Dear Parents,

This week in The Gospel Project® for Kids, our journey takes us to the beginning of John the Baptist’s ministry, specifically his birth. John is called the forerunner of the Savior. The term refers to someone who would literally run before a king, heralding his coming. At the end of the Old Testament, God spoke these words to His people: “Look, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome Day of the Lord comes” (Mal. 4:5). Then a period of silence began. For 400 years, God did not speak to the Jewish people as He had done through the prophets.

Luke described Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth, as descendants of Aaron. They both loved God and lived in obedience of His commandments. But they were childless. Elizabeth was barren, and by that time, they were both old. Zechariah the priest was serving in the temple during the reign of Herod the Great when Gabriel, an angel of the Lord, appeared. Gabriel said, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John.”

The name John means “the Lord is gracious.” He certainly is. The foretelling of John’s birth by the angel Gabriel marked the coming of the end of God’s silence. Compare Malachi 4:5-6 to Luke 1:16-17. God had big plans for the baby who wasn’t even born yet. God sent John to be the last prophet who would tell people about the coming Savior. John’s job was to remind the people what God had said in the past and to get the people ready to meet Jesus.

Family Activity: Instruct everyone to remain silent. When you point to a family member, she should shout something that is good news. Then everyone should be silent again. Point to another family member, and allow him to share good news. Explain that God was silent for 400 years before the angel announced John’s birth.

Key Passage: Luke 1:76 “And child, you will be called a prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare His ways.”

Big Picture Question: Who is Jesus? Jesus is God’s Son.

Christ Connection: Jesus came to earth and was born as a baby. Jesus’ parents on earth were Mary and Joseph. Jesus is God’s Son. He came to rescue people from their sins.

Dear Parents,

Thank you for continuing this journey of The Gospel Project® for Kids. Aren’t you excited that we’ve finally reached the New Testament? Four hundred years of God’s silence separated the last book of the Old Testament—Malachi—and the first book of the New Testament—Matthew. Matthew, the first of the four Gospels, begins with Jesus’ genealogy, like a family tree.

The prophecies concerning Jesus’ birth are numerous, and many of them refer to Jesus’ lineage. Old Testament prophecies tell of the promised Messiah being born from the seed of a woman (Gen. 3:15); from the seeds of Abraham (Gen. 22:18), Isaac (Gen. 21:12), and Jacob (Num. 24:17); from the tribe of Judah (Micah 5:2); from the line of Jesse (Isa. 11:1); and from the house of David (Jer. 23:5). The prophecies said He would be born of a virgin (Isa. 7:14) and would be the Son of God (1 Chr. 17:13-14; Ps. 2:7). Jesus fulfilled all of these prophecies.

In Bible times, Jews took great care to accurately record family genealogies. The family a person belonged to was directly linked to property rights. Matthew 1:1-17 and Luke 3:23-38 both chronicle the genealogy of Jesus. The account in Matthew presents Jesus as the king of the Jews—the legal heir to the throne of David. The account in Luke was written to Greek Christians and focuses on Jesus’ descent from Adam.

Jesus came to earth as a baby in Bethlehem. Jesus had earthly parents, Mary and Joseph, but His true Father is God. Jesus was still God the Son when He came to earth, but He also took on the form of a man. Jesus was born to save people from their sins.

Family Activity: Draw a family tree. Invite each family member to draw a picture of him or herself. Let kids draw parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. If available, share family photos or stories about the people in your family tree. Remind kids that Jesus is God’s Son, but He had an earthly family too—Mary and Joseph, David, Abraham,…all the way back to Adam and Eve!

Key Passage: Malachi 4:2 “The sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings, and you will go out and playfully jump like calves.”

Big Picture Question: Why does God keep His promises? God is faithful, and He loves us.

Christ Connection: Malachi was a messenger for God. He said another messenger was coming. That messenger was John the Baptist. John’s job was to get people ready for the last Messenger, Jesus! Jesus is God’s Son. He came to rescue people from sin.

Dear Parents,
Thank you for continuing this journey of The Gospel Project® for Kids. Today’s Bible story takes us to the last book of the Old Testament, the Book of Malachi. After living as prisoners in Babylon for many years, God’s people had returned to Judah—their promised land. They had worked hard and overcome opposition to rebuild the temple and the walls around Jerusalem. Surely God would restore them … finally! But nothing happened. As they waited, they faced drought and economic uncertainty. God’s people probably didn’t feel like God had blessed them at all.

“It is useless to serve God,” they said. “What have we gained by keeping His requirements?” (Mal. 3:14). Did God still care? It wasn’t long until they fell back into the same patterns of sin that led to their exile in the first place: idolatry, covetousness, hypocrisy, arrogance, and abuse of the poor. But God did still love His people. He had been working out His divine plan of redemption, and He never gave up on them. God sent a message to His people through the prophet Malachi.

Malachi spoke to God’s people approximately 100 years after the end of the Babylonian captivity. Malachi’s message from God was a wake-up call. The people’s lack of blessing didn’t mean that God didn’t care: God exposed His people’s sin and made clear that their actions merited a punishment. God’s people needed to repent and turn back to God. “But for you who fear My name,” God said, “the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings” (Mal. 4:2).

Four hundred years of silence followed Malachi’s prophecy; God did not communicate to His people. Malachi was a messenger—a prophet—who told God’s people to repent. Malachi also told about another messenger God would send. This messenger, John the Baptist, would break the silence. John would call people to repent and get them ready for a final Messenger, Jesus Christ. Jesus would bring good news of salvation.

Family Activity: Help kids find the Book of Malachi; the last book in the Old Testament. Read some of God’s promises from Malachi 1:11; 3:1, 17; 4:2. Guide kids to summarize each promise in their own words. Ask family members to share how they feel knowing that God is faithful and that He loves us.

Go further: Volunteer as a family to clean up a walking trail or roadside in your city. Talk to kids about what it meant for John to prepare the way for Jesus.

Key Passage: Malachi 4:2 “The sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings, and you will go out and playfully jump like calves.”

Big Picture Question: What did God’s Word teach the people? God’s Word helped them know the right things to do.

Christ Connection: The Bible teaches us about God and Jesus. It helps us know the right things to do. We do wrong things a lot, but when we know and love Jesus, He helps us say no to sin. Jesus died to rescue us from sin.

Dear Parents,

Thank you for continuing this journey of The Gospel Project® for Kids. Today’s Bible story takes place at a special worship service after the Jews finished rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls. Ezra was a priest in Babylon at the end of the exile. Just as God had been with Nehemiah, He was with Ezra—granting Him favor with the Persian king, who gave him permission to go to Jerusalem.

Ezra had a special purpose for returning to Jerusalem. God’s people had lived in exile for 70 years. They needed to be reminded how to live holy lives before God. As a scribe, Ezra was an expert on the law of Moses. Ezra had “determined in his heart to study the law of the Lord, obey it, and teach its statutes and ordinances in Israel” (Ezra 7:10).

After the walls were rebuilt, everyone gathered together at the Water Gate to hear Ezra read the law. Men, women, and children—anyone who could understand—came to listen. From early morning to midday, Ezra read from the book of the law of Moses. He stood on a platform so everyone could see and hear him. The Levites helped listeners understand the words of the law. When they understood, they wept. The law revealed their sin.

Ezra told the people not to weep, for the joy of the Lord is their strength. Yes, the people had sinned. But God would keep His promise to forgive. God’s Word is powerful. When Ezra read God’s Word, the people changed their ways and loved God more. The Bible says that Jesus is “the Word.” Jesus is God who came to live with people on earth. Jesus has the power to change our hearts.

Family Activity: Invite kids to stand before the family and read aloud from the Bible. Kids may choose a favorite Bible passage or read Nehemiah 8:1-12. Remind them that the Bible is God’s Word. The Bible tells us God’s plan to save people from sin by sending Jesus to die on the cross.

Key Passage: Malachi 4:2 “The sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings, and you will go out and playfully jump like calves.”

Big Picture Question: How did God protect His people? God helped His people rebuild the city walls.

Christ Connection: Nehemiah helped God’s people fix the walls around their city. The walls protected the people from their enemies. Jesus protects us from our enemies. When we know and love Jesus, He keeps us safe and we will live with Him forever.

Dear Parents,

This week in The Gospel Project® for Kids, our journey takes us to Jerusalem as Nehemiah led God’s people to finish rebuilding the city walls. City walls and gates were very important in Bible times. Walls were built to be several feet thick. They protected a city from its enemies and provided a sense of safety and security. Gates were the center of city life, the meeting place for commercial and social transactions. Without these structures, the surviving remnant of God’s people struggled and was vulnerable to attack.

Nehemiah traveled from Persia to Jerusalem to lead the effort in rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls. Nehemiah’s leadership was effective. Nehemiah 3 describes all the people working together to rebuild the gates and walls. But it wasn’t long before Nehemiah met opposition. Sanballat and Tobiah were local governors who strongly opposed Nehemiah’s helping the Jews. The two mocked God’s people and tried to discourage them. Sanballat and Tobiah planned a surprise attack against God’s people, but God’s people found out. They kept working—with a trowel in one hand and a sword in the other.

God’s people completed the wall in just 52 days. Note how their enemies reacted: “All the surrounding nations were intimidated and lost their confidence, for they realized that this task had been accomplished by our God” (Neh. 6:16). Nehemiah led the people to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem to protect them from their enemies. Jesus came to protect us from our enemies. He died on the cross and rose from the dead to rescue people from sin and death.

Family Activity: Provide play dough, interlocking blocks, or other construction toys. Challenge kids to build a wall. As they build, remind them that the wall around Jerusalem helped protect God’s people from their enemies. Lead kids to list reasons they can trust God when they feel afraid. Remind kids that they can pray and ask God for help anytime.

Key Passage: Malachi 4:2 “The sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings, and you will go out and playfully jump like calves.”

Big Picture Question: Why was Nehemiah sad? Nehemiah was sad because Jerusalem’s walls were broken.

Christ Connection: God promised to keep His people safe and give them a home. God always keeps His promises. Jesus died on the cross for our sin so we can have a home in heaven. When we trust in Jesus, we will be with God forever.

Dear Parents,

Thank you for continuing this journey of The Gospel Project® for Kids; we have certainly come a long way together! From creation and the fall all the way through the Babylonian exile, God’s promises stand firm. This unit, kids will continue with the story of the returning exiles, now known as Jews—people from the kingdom of Judah. Two or three million Jews had originally been deported, but only a remnant—50,000 people—returned after King Cyrus gave them permission to go home. Nehemiah’s story takes place after Ezra led a second group of exiles back to Judah. Nehemiah was a Jew living in Persia. He served as the king’s cupbearer, a position of great trust.

Nehemiah received word about God’s people who had returned to Judah. They were in trouble and living in shame; the walls of Jerusalem were broken down, and the city gates were burned. They lived in fear, unprotected from their enemies. Nehemiah sat down and wept. Nehemiah fasted and prayed for days. He remembered God’s promise to His people. Their disobedience led to exile, but if they turned back to the Lord, God promised to restore their fortunes and give His people a home. (See Deut. 30:1-10.)

The king noticed Nehemiah’s sadness, and Nehemiah was afraid. After saying a quick prayer, Nehemiah explained the plight of his city. The king granted him permission to return to Jerusalem. When Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem, he encouraged the people to rebuild the walls and stood confidently against opposition. Nehemiah trusted that God would keep His promise to protect His people and give them a home. When we trust in Jesus, we have a home in heaven with God. Jesus obeyed God perfectly. He died on the cross and rose again so we can have a home with Him forever in heaven.

Family Activity: Invite family members to point out things that make your home a safe place to live. Consider locks on doors or windows, smoke alarms, rails on stairs or porches, and so forth. Talk about how God promised to keep His people safe.

Go further: Build a Rube Goldberg machine to do some small task. Talk to your kids about ways we make things harder instead of seeking wisdom from God.

Key Passage: Zechariah 9:9 “Look, your King is coming to you; He is righteous and victorious, humble and riding on a donkey.”

Big Picture Question: How did God use Esther? God used Esther to help save His people.

Christ Connection: The Jews were in danger, and they needed someone to save them. God made Esther the queen so she could help the Jews. Today, everyone sins and is in danger. We need someone to save us. God sent His Son, Jesus, to save people from sin.

Dear Parents,
Thank you for continuing this journey of The Gospel Project® for Kids. Let’s set the scene for the story of how Esther saved her people. The Babylonian captivity had ended while Cyrus was king. Some of God’s people—now referred to as Jews (people from Judah)—traveled back to Judah to rebuild the temple, the city, and their lives. Others, however, stayed in Persia where life among the pagans was relatively comfortable.

Ahasuerus (uh haz yoo EHR uhs), also known by his Greek name, Xerxes (ZUHRK seez), was the king of Persia. Esther was a young Jewish girl who became queen by winning a beauty contest of sorts. Before becoming queen, Esther was an orphan raised by her cousin Mordecai.

Mordecai had an enemy, Haman the Agagite (a descendant of Agag, king of the Amalekites). The king gave Haman an important position in the kingdom; people were supposed to bow down to Haman when he passed by. Mordecai refused. Infuriated, Haman wanted to destroy not only Mordecai but all of the Jews in the kingdom.

Mordecai turned to Esther for help. After all, she was in a position of power; and the Jews were her people. The stakes were high, but Esther approached the king and explained her people’s plight. God was in control over Haman’s evil plan to destroy the Jews. Like Haman, Satan wants to destroy believers. He thought he had won when Jesus died on the cross, but God raised Jesus from the dead and defeated Satan once and for all. (Heb. 2:14-15)

Family Activity: Invite kids to name people they know whom God has used in His plan. Encourage kids to think about people they go to school with, attend church with, or see in other life situations. Family members may also name Bible people. Review the story of Esther by allowing kids to tell or read the Bible Story. Pray and ask God to help each family member be willing to be used by God in His plan to rescue people from sin.