The story shown in bold is explored in full in the Big Bible Challenge book www.scriptureunion.org.uk/shop
Stories in this challenge
One of us John 1:1–14
Believe the impossible Luke 1:26–38
Good news! Luke 2:8–20
Get ready Luke 3:2b–16
Know your enemy Matthew 4:1–11
COMMON tips for this and every challenge
- Always have a Bible in a child-friendly translation available, as you take the Big Bible Challenge. Even when the Bible verses are printed in the Big Bible Challenge book, find them in a Bible as well. This will help the child gain confidence in handling the Bible and become familiar with its size and number of pages.
- Finding your way around the Bible can be a challenge in itself! Each reading from the Bible is shown in a certain way, like this:
- Use the Index or Contents page of the Bible to help you find the book (or books) in the Bible for the readings in this challenge. In this example, the book title is ‘Genesis’.
- Each book of the Bible is in chapters. In this example, the reading is in chapter 2.
- Each chapter is split into verses. In this example, the verses are 15–22. In most Bibles, the verse numbers are printed very small.
- Many of the challenges have five readings from the same part of the Bible, so use a bookmark to keep your place and it will be easier to find the Bible reading next time.
- The Bible consists of many ‘books’ collected together and presented as one. See if you can work out what sort of ‘book’ you are exploring: is it history or is it a letter? Are you reading words spoken by a prophet or written as a song?
- Spend time looking at and chatting about the artwork in the Big Bible Challenge. Find out more online in ‘How does the Big Bible Challenge work?’
- When you have finished this challenge, use the simple evaluation sheet [here: hyperlink]. Find out more online in ‘How does the Big Bible Challenge work?’
COMMENCE: your introduction to this part of the Bible
At last, after almost 2,000 years the promise to Abraham is fulfilled with the birth of Jesus. Luke gives us the detailed narrative; John gives us the theological narrative; but both set the birth of Jesus in the context of the Old Testament. John, by his use of concepts and language from Greek philosophy, and Luke, by his inclusion of Simeon’s prayer (Luke 2:32), emphasise that Jesus is for all people. For both (and for Matthew), Jesus is seen as the eternal Word, sharing the nature of God, and as the fully human child of Mary – Word and flesh, with a family line going back to Adam (Luke 3:23-38).
The unlikely choices of Elizabeth and Mary are the people God decides to use as mothers for John and Jesus. Without fully understanding how this will come to pass, they commit themselves to Gods purposes. Jesus’ birth, a hugely significant event in history, takes place in the very ordinary context of a stable. The first people to meet him were shepherds and, despite the fact that Jesus was still only a baby, their lives were transformed by the encounter.
John the Baptist looks and sounds a little like an Old Testament prophet; he both bridges the gap between the events of the Old and New Testament and acts as a fulfilment of prophecy, coming as the promised forerunner to Jesus (Luke 3:4-6). Jesus’ baptism and temptation further identify him as one of us, sharing our humanity and our physical weakness. The battle with the devil, which starts here, will, in different ways, mark the whole of Jesus’ life.
CONNECT: the five stories in this challenge
The five stories in Challenge 11 fall into two groups: the birth of Jesus; and the beginnings of his ministry when he and his cousin, John, were about 30 years old. The illustration on pages 69 and 70 of the Big Bible Challenge book separates these two time-periods with the river dividing the birth stories from Jesus’ life as an adult.
The first three stories
The key story, examined in the Big Bible Challenge book, is the birth of Jesus. You could begin with this and then look at John’s introduction to the person of Jesus and Luke’s account of the angel coming to Mary and telling her about the baby.
Or begin with the angel coming to Mary; see the shepherds visiting the baby; and then look at John’s gospel to start to work out who Jesus is.
Or take the stories in order, as shown in the list for Challenge 11.
Whichever order you decide to follow, you will have opportunities to consider what is going on – and the meaning behind the events. Don’t get so caught up in the detail that you miss the spectacular and awesome story that God has come to be one of us. Who is Jesus? That’s the big question that you will be exploring in this and the next few challenges.
The fourth and fifth stories
Fast-forward 30 years and the second group of stories shows how John was preparing the people for the coming of Jesus – and how Jesus prepared himself, by baptism, prayer and fasting, for his task of telling people about God.
The angels and John announced the coming of God’s son, the ‘Messiah’, who would save God’s people. Jesus comes back from the desert without giving into the tricks and offers of his enemy – and his work is under way…
CONSIDER: what this challenge means today
John’s message was:
1 Repent – turn back to God and demonstrate that in very practical ways. It was not enough to ‘say sorry’: this had to be shown by refusing to act wrongly and by choosing to act kindly.
2 Be baptised – the idea of using water for purification was familiar to Jews. It was a sign of being serious about repentance.
Today, children may ask more about baptism. If you are not the child’s parent but their family has a Christian denominational affiliation, it’s best to ask them to talk with their parents about this. If not – or if they want to pursue it further – be sure to point out that almost all Christians today believe that being baptised is still a sign of choosing to follow the way of Jesus, although there are differences in how baptism is performed. Different churches have different traditions and methods of baptism. It may be possible for you and the child to see a baptism taking place and chat about it afterwards, comparing what you have seen with what John was doing.
The first chapter of John’s gospel is visually rich (don’t be surprised if children are more at ease with this than you are!). The key themes are:
- The Word: the communicating God who spoke and the world began. Because Jesus is God, he was actually there at the beginning of the world, too.
- The light: Jesus shines into the darkness of the world
- Jesus’ rejection by the world that he created
- Jesus’ offer of rebirth for all who have faith in him
- Jesus is God and human. When he became human, he was still God, with all the power and characteristics of God still inside him.
CLARIFY: issues that may arise from this challenge
The virgin birth
Mary would become pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit. If your child brings up the question of sex, talk carefully and honestly. Point out that this was not an ordinary situation and Mary didn’t get pregnant in the ordinary way. Therefore this was not an ordinary baby. It is a mystery: we’re not always meant to understand how and why God does things the way he does.
Don’t panic about this: many young people may not even think to ask. They are often far more accepting of miracles than adults are!
Just before Jesus begins his public ministry, he has a confrontation with the devil. The timing is significant.
What was at the heart of this? Think back to the Garden of Eden when the devil confronts the first human – and Adam fails (Genesis 3:6). Paul talks about Jesus as the second Adam: the one who did not fail (Romans 5:12–19).
In each of three temptations, Jesus makes it clear that he is not going to be dictated to by his enemy. And he makes it clear by using words from the Bible.
The devil tempts Jesus with things that are temporary, spectacular and, largely, public. Compare this with Jesus’ coming mission, which will begin ‘incognito’, will be concerned with the weak, not the powerful, and will bring in a permanent kingdom whose values are about humility and generosity, not selfishness and greed.
COMMUNICATE: talk to God
Heaven breaks through onto earth in the visit of Gabriel to Mary, the announcement of the angels and, finally, as John explains, in the birth of Jesus, the Light of the world. Your child may be very familiar with the Christmas story, but it is important to remember it all year round, not just for a few days each year.
Allow your child to light a candle or tea-light and, as they look at it, to thank God for sending Jesus, the Light of the world. If they have any worries or fears, remind them that Jesus came to lighten our darkness. Pray that he will shine into your child’s life.
(Be safety conscious and teach your child basic safety rules. Put the candle out after you have finished with it and do not leave it burning, unsupervised. If you use tea-lights, remember that the wax will be liquid for a while after the flame is out. Use matches responsibly and don’t leave them lying around for others to find.)