Caesar’s Census – Mary & Joseph Travel to Bethlehem: Christmas Sunday School Lesson

Dive into a journey where money is more than just coins. Discover Emperor Caesar Augustus’s desires for power and wealth and see how his actions unknowingly paved the way for Jesus’ birth. While Caesar planned for himself, God was in TOTAL control. Explore the details, find hidden clues, and see how everything fits perfectly in God’s grand plan. Amid power struggles and old prophecies, understand the true heart of the Christmas story. A tale so real, it invites kids to believe. Leave your class with the question…”are you ready to let Jesus be your Savior?”

Group Worship

Joy to the World

A familiar favorite! Kids sing about that Jesus’ arrival brought joy to the whole world and that every heart should prepare room for Him. It emphasizes rejoicing and praising God for the gift of His Son.

 

Lyric & Motions Video

Born is the King

This Christmas classic highlights the joy and mystery of the Christmas story, inviting everyone to sing praises to God for the birth of Jesus. A savior is born!!

 

Lyric Video | Motions Video

Song 6
Song 8

Group Worship

Joy to the World

A familiar favorite! Kids sing about that Jesus’ arrival brought joy to the whole world and that every heart should prepare room for Him. It emphasizes rejoicing and praising God for the gift of His Son.

 

Lyric & Motions Video

Song 6

Born is the King

This Christmas classic highlights the joy and mystery of the Christmas story, inviting everyone to sing praises to God for the birth of Jesus. A savior is born!!

 

Lyric Video | Motions Video

Song 8

Opening Activity | Census Count

Christmas Situation 3 - Opening Activity

Materials: Lots of paper clips, post-it-notes, jar to put the paperclips in

Today’s lesson involves…counting – so to get us thinking about that let’s play a game that involves counting!

Prior to the lesson, spread a bunch of paperclips around the room. Give children one minute to try to count them all. They are not allowed to pick them up. Have each child write the number of paperclips they think are in the room on a post-it-note.

Next, have children go around the room and pick up all of the paper-clips. Drop them, one by one, into a large jar, counting as you go.

  • Who was the closest?
  • Who was the furthest away?
  • Did anyone count the same paperclip twice?
  • Was it easier to count the paper clips when they were all in the same place, or when they were scattered?
Christmas Situation 3 - Opening Activity

Craft | Money Pouch

Objects Needed: Fleece or felt sheets, leather string or some cord, beads, scissors, pencils, and paper plates (big and small)Fleece or felt sheets, leather string or some cord, beads, scissors, pencils, and paper plates (big and small)

Explain that they will be making a pouch to carry money in. Mary and Joseph had to travel to pay their taxes with the money that was in their pouches.

Start by laying the felt or fleece sheet over the plate and tracing the plate to create a large circle. Cut around the line. This can be done before class begins to make things go faster or if the children are old enough they can do this.

Next, use a smaller plate, that is at least an inch small from the side to draw two short lines 1cm apart all around your circle. Then added two more sets in between to get them spaced out evenly.

Make 0.5-1cm snips along these lines (running from outside in). Thread the string through the slits to make it a porch. Once threaded through add beads to the strings and tie a knot to secure them.

Lesson Script

Luke 2:1-3

Materials Needed:

  • TOP SECRET envelope from the last two lessons
  • A bag filled with fake coins (they can also be gold-wrapped chocolate coins)
  • Write a clue about where you hid a clue (the bag of coins), and put it in the envelope

It’s time to investigate the next piece of the Jesus puzzle. Let’s open today’s TOP SECRET envelope.

(Have a student read the clue out loud. Let students search for the bag of coins. Once they find it, hand out the coins to everyone. It doesn’t matter if everyone gets different amounts).

Money, money, money. They say it “makes the world go ‘round”. Do you know what that means? (Allow for answers).

It means people all over the world do certain things just because they want money. For example, they work at a job they don’t like. Or hurt other people. They might do something they never thought they would do in a million years, like steal or kill someone. And it’s all because of money.

Some people want to become famous or powerful so they can get more money. Or they want to become governor or president so they can get more money. They might not do it for the right reasons—like to help the people they govern, for instance.

That was the case for an emperor called Caesar. He ruled the Roman Empire at the time Jesus was going to be born.

What did Caesar want the most? A Caesar salad, of course.

 

No…although, those are delicious. He wanted power and money. The more power he got, the more wealth he could get his hands on.

Also Caesar wanted everyone to call him “Augustus”, which means “highly honored one”. In other words, he wanted to be called “the best”!

Caesar Augustus felt that he had more power than anyone. And so he wanted to flex his muscles and use his power to get even MORE moolah.

So what did he do? He announced that there was going to be a census!

 

What’s a census? A nun asking for your loose change? (Get it…cent–sis?)

 

Sorry about the bad joke. A census is when a ruler or government counts all the people. That way they know how many people live in certain cities or countries.

But Caesar didn’t just want to know how many people lived in his empire just to know. He wanted to TAX them! To get their MONEY!

If he knew how many people there were, no one could escape his tax collectors. And no one could get away with not paying taxes. (As you say this, go around the room taking half of each student’s coins).

Oh yeah, Caesar thought he was smart. He probably thought he was smarter and more powerful than…God himself!

But God was going to have the last laugh. While Caesar thought he was the sharpest tool in the shed, he was really just a tool in God’s hands.

How did God use Caesar and his census? Let’s turn to Luke’s investigation to find out. (Read Luke 2:1-3)

Luke 2:1-3

“At that time, Augustus Caesar sent an order that all people in the countries under Roman rule must list their names in a register. This was the first registration; it was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to their own towns to be registered.” (NCV)

 

The answer is in that last verse: “all went to their own towns to be registered.”

You see, at this point, Mary was married to Joseph. She was pregnant with Jesus. So this wasn’t a great time to travel.

But all the prophecies said that the Savior of the world was going to be born in Bethlehem. And Mary was in Nazareth, not Bethlehem.

So how was God going to get her to travel to Bethlehem? Well, Joseph was from Bethlehem, so they had to go there to be taxed! Problem solved! Thanks, Caesar!

Poor Caesar, thinking he’s so clever. When really, his amazing tax plan was just a teeny part of God’s BIG plan. His JESUS plan.

This part of the plan was written 700 years before Caesar even lived–in Micah 5:2. (Read the verse or have a student read it.)

Micah 5:2

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are too small to be among the army groups from Judah, from you will come one who will rule Israel for me. He comes from very old times, from days long ago.” (NCV)

 

Whoa. Way ahead of ya, Caesar! I imagine if Caesar had known he was just a pawn in God’s plans, he would have been soooo jealous!

This is one part of the “Christmas story” that many people overlook. After all, you don’t see people putting up Nativity scenes with a little Caesar figurine, writing his decree that there’s going to be a census. That would be silly.

But Luke made sure to include this detail for us. It’s one more thing that helps us understand that Jesus was no ordinary man. His birth was no ordinary birth. It had been planned hundreds of years earlier…down to the details of where it was going to take place.

It’s incredible if you think about it. It’s one more detail that helps us believe. God knows that it’s hard for us to believe in what we can’t see. It’s tempting to think of the Christmas story as just that—a story.

But it’s not just a story. It actually happened. Jesus is real, and he’s waiting for you to trust and believe in him if you haven’t already. He is the King of the whole Universe. The Savior of the whole world. But he wants to be YOUR Savior.

Unlike proud ol’ Caesar, Jesus loves everyone equally (re-distribute the coins so that everyone has the same amount). Everyone has the chance to make him their Savior.

Will you let him be your Savior?

(End with an invitation to speak with a teacher about making a salvation decision, then close in prayer).

What does it mean to FOLLOW Jesus?
Free 6-week curriculum:

Play games, laugh together and teach your elementary class what it means to be a "disciple" - to follow Jesus with their whole heart.

Followers-Series

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Christmas Situation 3 - Group Game

Group Game | Saddle Up!

Christmas Situation 3 - Group Game

Objects Needed: Duplicate items one may need for traveling (jacket, soap, hairbrush, toothbrush, purse, bag, etc.). To make this easier you can also just make strips of paper with the name of an item on it. Here’s a list you can use and print for kids.

Before kids arrive, hide the items around the room you will be playing this game in.

To start the game, divide the children into two teams. Inform the participants that they, like Mary and Joseph, must travel to Bethlehem to fulfill the census required by Caesar. But first, they’ll need to pack some items for their journey.

Give each team a list of items they’ll need to find (you can use this one). Have them race against the other team to assemble their items.

Appoint an adult to act as each team’s donkey (by going down on their hands and knees). When the children have all their items assembled they need to pack all their items on their “donkey.”

Provide two canvas grocery bags per “donkey,” plus string and scissors, and have the children race to invent some saddlebags. For some extra laughs (once all the items are loaded on the donkey), ask one of the smaller children to try to sit on their donkey as well.

Memory Verse

Christmas is exciting for many reasons. But there is one reason we find that beats all the others. Christmas is a celebration of God coming to earth as baby Jesus on a rescue mission. The one and only Savior was born in Bethlehem for you and for me.

Luke 2:10-11

"The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I am bringing you good news that will be a great joy to all the people. Today your Savior was born in the town of David. He is Christ, the Lord. "

Small Group Questions

What did Caesar want?
Money and power.

Why did Caesar want a census?
To tax them.

Why did Mary and Joseph have to go to Bethlehem?
To pay their taxes.

How was this taxing part of God’s plan?
It brought Mary to Bethlehem where Jesus was supposed to be born.

Why did Luke make sure to include this detail for us?
To show us that Jesus was no ordinary man.

Was Jesus like Caesar?
NO! Jesus loves us!

Is the Christmas story just a nice fake story?
NO!

How do we know this is a real story?
Allow for answers.

Small Group Activity | Find & Draw

Christmas Situation 3 - Small Group Activity

Objects Needed: Paper and colored pencils, Print out this crossword for each kid

Find It:
Give this crossword puzzle to each kid and see how many words they can find!

Draw It:
Have groups draw a picture of today’s lesson. Once they are finished drawing let each student show his paper to his or her group and explain what the picture is of.

Christmas Situation 3 - Small Group Activity

Words For This Week

Today’s Scripture: Luke 2:1-3

Memory Verse: The angels said to them, “Do not be afraid. I am bringing you good news that will be a great joy to all people. Today your Savior was born in the town of David. He is Christ, the Lord. Luke 2:10-11(NCV)

—————–

Today’s story was all about a very proud ruler. Caesar Augustus felt that he had more power than anyone. And so he wanted to flex his muscles and use his power to get even more money from the people he ruled over. So he called for a census.

He was using the census to count everyone so he could get as much tax money as he could.

Little did he know he was helping to fulfill a prophecy from the Old Testament book of Micah that promised Jesus would be born in Bethlehem..the town Mary and Joseph were required to go to for the census.

This is another amazing detail that reminds us the Christmas story is a lot more than JUST a story. It’s history! It’s the true story of God coming to earth to rescue me and rescue you from our sins.

Key Thought:

Thank you God for sending us Jesus!

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