I can experience freedom to follow Jesus Christ.
The baby Jesus reminds us that we have found freedom in the coming of our Messiah. Jesus is our Savior. He came to set us free from the guilt and weight of sin. When we ask Jesus to forgive us, He takes the burdens of guilt and shame from us. We also now have the freedom to live the way He wants us to right now. As we choose to surrender to His love and forgiveness we are free to act and speak in ways that will be pleasing to Him.
Transformation in the life of a child begins with transformation in the life of the teacher. Before you teach this lesson to your children, take a moment to reflect on this lesson aim in your own life. Read this devotional and ask yourself if you really believe that “I can experience freedom to follow Jesus Christ.”
Jesus came to set us free to live a life full of love, joy, peace, and all the fruit of the Holy Spirit (see Gal 5:22-23). Salvation doesn’t just mean receiving eternal life in the future; it means receiving freedom and power now to live the fulfilling life that God wants us to live.
The Jews were hoping for God to send the Messiah to save them from Roman oppression. But Jesus was coming to offer salvation to all people spiritually—from our slavery to selfishness and sin.
God knew that only He could set things right, to give people the freedom to live an abundant life, without the weight of guilt, shame, ungodly anger, bitterness, jealousy, hatred, and other heavy burdens that sin causes.
Think about what it means to you that Jesus has saved you by coming out of heaven and down to earth, living a perfect life, dying on the cross, and rising again to pay the price for our sin addiction that we inherited from Adam and Eve. Take a few moments to respond to these questions:
- What has God saved you from?
- What has been weighing you down?
- What negative thoughts/actions burden you?
Since God has the power to free you from the burdens you just identified, spend some time in reflective prayer giving these burdens to God. Pray for the Lord to take them away and help us to experience freedom. Pray for God to help us bring the wonderful forgiveness that we can experience to love and follow Jesus Christ.
Simeon was a godly, old man who had been waiting for many years for the Lord’s Messiah to come and bring salvation. When Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple to dedicate him to the Lord, Simeon took the baby into his arms and prophesied that Jesus would be a light to the Gentiles and the glory of Israel. To the Gentiles, God would help them trust and obey Jesus, the Light of the World. To the Jews, God would fulfill the long-awaited promise of the Messiah, the leader who would finally set them free.
Simeon knew that the Messiah would offer salvation to everyone in the world—both Jew and Gentile. This salvation was freedom from the heavy burdens of sin in their life now and forever.
Simeon addressed God as “sovereign Lord“ in verse 29. The Greek noun is despostes (from which we get our English word “despot”), “one who has legal control and authority over persons, such as subjects or slaves, lord, master.” The absolute Sovereign God kept His promise to Simeon, who then asked the Lord to let him die in peace because this was what he had been waiting for.
In the prophetic praise that followed, the child Jesus was equated with “your salvation“ in verse 30. It is not accidental that Jesus’ name, in Hebrew Yeshua (a form of the name “Joshua”), means literally, “salvation.” So, Simeon looked on the child named “Salvation” and said, “my eyes have seen your salvation.”
It is remarkable that Simeon saw Jesus’ salvation as extending to all people—Gentiles and Jews alike. This is the same message the angel spoke to the shepherds on Christmas night: “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people“ (2:10).
The concept of the Messiah and Israel being “a light for the Gentiles“ was first developed by the Prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 9:2; 42:6; 60:1-3), especially in Isaiah 49:6: “I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.“
Lesson Aim Note
The Lesson Aim is mentioned many times throughout the course of the lesson. To make it noticeable, it is underlined. It is critical to repeat and explain it numerous times from many angles. The goal is for the children to not only learn the Lesson Aim but to understand it well enough to be able to apply it to their daily lives.
This is a comprehensive list of all supplies you will need to complete this lesson.
- Christmas candy
- (For 1/2 of the children) Heavy gallon-sized bottles of water, heavy books, etc.
- (For each child) Tags to put on the bottles/books for the “Experience”
- Costumes for Simeon & Joseph (tunics, robes, beards, headscarves).
- Costume for Mary (long dress, veil, doll wrapped in a blanket as baby Jesus).
- A large piece of easel paper with the lesson aim written on the top.
- A thick pen to write on the easel paper
- Blank tags (3-5 per child)
- Pencils (1 per child)
- Take home “Keep Responding” worksheet (last page of this lesson)
A relationship that reflects the love of God is a crucial element of transformational ministry. The life of Christ, particularly His love, flows through our relationship with children (Deuteronomy 6:5-6). Relational activities can be fun, sincere, humorous… The purpose is to learn something about each other and to grow in relationship.
Supplies Needed (for each child):
- Christmas cookie
Put a bowl of Christmas candy in the middle of the circle. Sit in the circle with the children and ask them this question, “What is something fun that you did this week that is Christmas related?”
Once they answer, invite them to take and eat a cookie.
After all the children have responded, remind them that last week they were encouraged to share about Jesus with someone. Invite children who want to, to share about their experience.
Experience is a key element of learning. Transformation is not just a cognitive scholastic exercise. We learn by integrating God’s Word into the everyday “experiences” of life. (Deuteronomy 6:7)
- (For 1/2 of the children) Heavy gallon-sized bottles of water, heavy books etc.
- 1 Tag for each child. Write one of the following examples on each:
I didn‘t do what I was asked to do by my Mom or Dad
I made fun of someone
I did something mean to my friend
I got angry and said something mean to someone
I lied to someone
I talked behind my friend‘s back
I was not nice to my sister or brother
I cheated in school
I broke a promise
I didn‘t do my chores when I was supposed to
On each heavy object, tape one or more tags on them that you have created. Play a fun circle game, such as “Duck-Duck-Goose” or “Tag” but select a number of children to play the game while carrying around something heavy such as a gallon-sized plastic water bottle or a heavy book.
The other children in the group get to play freely, unencumbered.
Have the children carry these heavy things around until they start complaining or they say it is too hard to play the game while carrying the heavy object. Then, let them put the weight down and experience physical freedom by playing the game without the burden of the weight.
Have others carry the weights and continue playing the game until everyone has experienced carrying the burden and being freed from it. Then, ask each person to take one of the tags off of the plastic water bottles, book, etc.
- How did you feel when you had to carry around the heavy water bottle?
- How did you feel when you got to play the game freely?
- What does your tag say?
Sin and guilt are heavy and difficult to carry. Each water bottle/book had different sins listed on it. When you played the game holding the water bottle/book, this represented what it is like to live with sin and guilt in your life. It weighs you down. When you put the water bottle/book down, you felt relieved. This represents how you feel when God forgives you and you don’t have to carry your sin around.
There were a lot of people in Israel in Jesus’ day who felt burdened by their sin. They knew the people who had lived before them had done evil things and they carried around the weight of guilt and it was heavy. They longed to be freed of it and they wondered, “When are you going to save us, Lord?” God answered their hearts’ desire in Luke 2:22-28, and they experienced freedom to follow Jesus Christ.
Let’s find out what happens…
The Word of God needs to be “impressed” on our children. It is the Bible truth that we are teaching and is the core of the lesson. (Deuteronomy 6:6-7)
Teacher Note: It’s important that the children understand that the story you are about to teach is from God’s Word, the Bible. We want them to understand that the stories are all true and they help us to understand who God is and how He wants us to live. We recommend having a Bible in hand.
– Costumes for Simeon & Joseph (tunics, robes, beards, headscarves).
– Costume for Mary (long dress, veil, doll wrapped in a blanket as baby Jesus).
The focus will be on Luke chapter 2 verses 29 and 30: “You may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation.”
Choose an older male to dress up as Simeon to present a monologue from Luke 2:22-28. The other characters (Mary, Joseph, doll for Baby Jesus) can be children. They do not have speaking parts, so they will simply walk up to Simeon and allow him to hold the baby. An adult should serve as the narrator.
Teacher (Narrator) Says: During the time when Jesus was born, faithful Jewish parents would follow the Israelite custom of taking their baby son to the Temple to present him to the Lord. They would offer a sacrifice in keeping with the Law of Moses, that said, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord.“ They would give a lamb or poorer families could give a pair of doves or two young pigeons.
There was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. The Holy Spirit was on him. He was waiting for the Messiah to come. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.
Who can remember what we learned about the name Messiah from the last lesson? (Invite them to recall and share what they learned in Lesson 3, that the Lord‘s Messiah is the leader that God promised to send to set the people free and save them.)
The Holy Spirit led Simeon into the temple courts. When Mary and Joseph brought the child Jesus to the Temple, Simeon took Jesus in his arms and praised God. (Mary and Joseph placed baby Jesus in Simeon’s arms.)
Simeon Says: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”
Speaking directly to the children, holding Baby Jesus in his arms, Simeon continues: “Children, I am a very old man, and I have lived a long life here in Jerusalem. I have been waiting for many years for God to send His Messiah, the one who would lead us and save us. The Holy Spirit told me that Christ the Lord would come during my lifetime.”
“Now I can die peacefully because I have seen with my own eyes the Messiah that the Lord God promised to send to set us free. He is here now–this Baby Jesus. Jesus is our Messiah, our Savior, our Lord. This little child will grow into a man and He will save us.”
“I am so glad to see the fulfillment of the prophecy that the Holy Spirit gave me a long time come true! In case you are wondering, a prophesy, is a specific thing that will happen in the future. The prophecy that I received from the Holy Spirit was that I would not die until I had seen my Savior and I have just seen Him!”
“Children, what I mean by this prophecy is that the baby you see here, Jesus, will not just be the Messiah for my people, the Jews of Israel. Jesus will be the Servant-Leader and Lord of all people in the entire world. God sent His Son Jesus not only to the Jews, but also to the Gentiles. That means to EVERYONE from every nation, tribe, and tongue (see Rev 7:9). That means that Jesus came to save you, and me and everyone who surrenders to His love. Jesus wants us to trust Him. When we believe in Him and ask Him to help us, He promises to help us to make good choices. When we mess up and don’t make good decisions, we can ask Him for forgiveness, and He will free us from feelings of guilt and shame. We can experience new freedom to follow Jesus.
Teacher (Narrator) Says: Jesus came to free us from a life controlled by selfishness and sin. Do you remember when you carried around those heavy _________________________ (state what object you chose) during our game earlier today? Well Jesus came to set us free of heavyweights, but not physical weights.
Jesus came to set us free from the weight of sin. When we do bad stuff or make poor choices, we feel the weight of shame. Sometimes we carry around the shame of sin for a long time. When we are frustrated or angry, sometimes we can also carry around those feelings for a long time. Unhealthy anger can be a heavyweight in our life. When we are afraid, we can be burdened by fear for a long time.
That is why, every year at various times, the Jews came to the Temple to sacrifice animals to pay for their sins. This was a requirement from God until Jesus, the Messiah came.
They knew that God promised to send Someone to give them permanent freedom, not just temporary freedom. God sent His Son, Jesus, to set people free from sin forever and allow us to experience freedom to follow Jesus Christ.
When we trust in Jesus, we can live a brand-new life. We are no longer controlled by sin. When we believe in Jesus we can be empowered to choose to live the way God wants us to live, with joy, peace, kindness, and love.
We can still make wrong choices and mistakes, but Jesus promises to help us make good choices if we ask Him. His Holy Spirit will give us His power.
You can make the choice to use kind words and not bad language. You don’t have to let anger control you anymore. You don’t have to make other people feel bad so that you will feel better. You can be concerned about other people and not jealous. You can stop being selfish and choose to share generously. You can be strong when you are afraid. You can be kind when someone is mean to you. You can choose to celebrate life and be joyful. You can be glad that God gave you special gifts and talents and not wish you had the talents other people have. You are no longer controlled by guilt, anger, hatred, jealousy, evil thoughts and fear!
Even though you still have struggles, problems, and difficult trials, you can still feel safe and peaceful and loved, because Jesus is always with you. The list of wonderful things about following Jesus goes on and on. In the Lord Jesus Christ, you are free! We don’t have to get stuck doing things that will hurt others or ourselves.
Make a big deal out of “talk about them,” believing that it is crucial to talk about Bible Truth above and connect it to the real lives of children. Talk about how to connect God’s Word to your child’s real life. (Deuteronomy 6:7)
- Why was Simeon joyfully speaking out to Mary, Joseph, and the people at the Temple? What was he saying?
- What does it mean that Jesus came to bring us salvation? What did He come to save us from?
- Give every child a chance to read their tag from the Experiential Activity and invite the group to come up with an action that would be pleasing to the Lord instead of what is written on their tag. For example: “I lied” could be, “I can tell the truth,” “I made fun of someone” could be, “I can say nice things to and about others,” or “I didn’t obey my Mom or Dad,” could be, “I can obey my Mom or Dad.”
Have them write the new positive statement/action on the back of their tag. When they have shared, have them tape their tags to the large piece of Easel paper that you have prepared.
Teacher Says: Look at all of the different ways we can act that will be pleasing to God. We don’t have to act like other people do, we can experience freedom by following Jesus and saying and doing things that are pleasing to Him.
We’ve talked about ways that we can sin. This is when we say and do things that are selfish or unkind. I’d like to give you the opportunity to share a time when you said or did something that was hurtful to God’s care and love for us.
Responding to God from a transformed heart is the ultimate goal of our time here on earth. Children are encouraged to respond to God’s Word in thought and action, immediately and on into the future. (Deuteronomy 6:8-9)
Supplies Needed (for each child):
- A blank tag
- A pencil
Teacher Says: Take a few minutes and write/draw the example you shared with us during the discussion time of something you did or said something that didn’t please God. God does not want us to continue to do negative things and act in ways that are not pleasing to Him. He wants us to experience freedom by choosing to follow Him and making good choices.
Once they have written/drawn their example on their tag, have them put an x through it and cross it out. On the other side, have them write a positive action of how they can act in a way that will please God the next time they are in a similar situation.
Lead the children in a time of prayer, where they can ask God to forgive them for what they wrote on their card on the side that they crossed out and ask Him to help them to do what they wrote on the other side of the card the next time they are in a similar situation. Have them end by saying, “God, thank you that, with Your help, I decide to say things and do things that please You and by doing this I can experience freedom to follow Jesus.“
Supplies Needed (for each child):
- 3-5 blank tags
Give them 3-5 tags to keep for the week ahead.
Teacher Says: None of us are perfect and we all sin. When you do something that is not pleasing to God, write it down on one of your tags. Then, cross it out and write a way you can choose to act the next time that is pleasing to God. You can ask God to forgive you for behaving badly and help you do the right thing next time.
Instruct them to tape the tag on their page next to the one they taped on earlier.
I can experience freedom by following Christ.
God can help me speak and act in ways that please and honor Him.
This lesson was adapted from Every Generation Ministries, an international ministry to children.
 What’s the difference between guilt and shame? Guilt is when we feel bad about what we did. Shame is when we feel bad about who we are. Help kids to know the difference. It’s also important to acknowledge that there are such things as “legitimate” shame and guilt. This has to do with seeing our need for a Savior, which leads us to salvation. As we progress into the Christian life, we will need to untangle the differences between legitimate shame and guilt and illegitimate (or toxic) shame and guilt. To come to know that we are completely and utterly loved and accepted by God because of gospel grace begins to free us from illegitimate shame and guilt.
 It’s also important to help our kids begin to understand the difference between righteous anger and unrighteous anger (see Eph 4:26). Unrighteous anger is most often the result of not getting our own way. A good description of righteous anger is: Love in motion toward a threat to someone (or something) you love.