Pass the Christmas parcels


To explain clearly the facts surrounding the birth of Jesus.

Bible base:

Matthew 1&2, Luke 1&2. The birth of Jesus.

 You will need:

The following items to wrap and number as shown:

  1. A ‘decree’ – wording as suggested by Luke 2:1-3
  2. A map showing Nazareth and Bethlehem (a simple drawing will do)
  3. A ‘No room’ sign
  4. Some straw
  5. A toy donkey
  6. A doll wrapped up in cloths as Jesus would have been
  7. An angel (a Christmas decoration or paper one)
  8. A toy sheep
  9. A star
  10. A box to represent one of the gifts given to Jesus
  11. A question mark
  12. Christmas paper
  13. A tape of suitable music and cassette player
  14. A rubbish bag for all the paper!


Wrap each item from the list in Christmas paper and number them in the correct order for the story.

Some can be omitted to cut down on time, but the larger number means that everyone should at least handle a parcel.



  1. Ask what games the children like playing at Christmas parties.  Make sure ‘Pass the Parcel’ is mentioned.
  2. Explain that today’s game will be played slightly differently: all the parcels will be passed around together and, when the music stops, you will call out the numbers of the parcels that you want to be opened.
  3. Spread out the parcels among the children and give clear instructions about which way they are to be passed.  When the music stops, call out two numbers at a time (otherwise it takes too long!) and have the children bring the parcels to the front to be opened.
  4. As each parcel is opened, tell the relevant part of the story.


Begin with music.  Open parcels 1 and 2.

Long ago, when Augustus was Emperor, he decided to take a count of everyone who lived in the country of Judea (Show the decree)

Two people, Mary and Joseph had to travel from Nazareth, where they lived to Bethlehem, where Joseph’s family came from many years before. (Show the map).

Music.  Open parcels 3 and 4.

When they got to Bethlehem, the town was so busy with travellers like themselves that all the places to stay were full (Show the sign), and Mary and Joseph had to stay in a stable, and sleep in the straw. (Show the straw).

Music. Open parcels 5 and 6.

During the night, Mary’s baby son was born.  He was called Jesus. There was nowhere for him to sleep except the manger, the feeding trough that the cows and donkeys used.  (Show the donkey).  Mary wrapped up Jesus in strips of cloth, and laid him in the straw.  (Show the baby).

Music and parcels 7 and 8.

Jesus, the baby born in the stable, was not just any baby: he was the Son of God.  Later that night angels (show the angel) went to tell the good news of Jesus’ birth to some shepherds (show the sheep).

Music and parcels 9 and 10.

A special star came in the sky too (Show the star), and some wise men who studied the sky saw the star, and followed it many, many miles until it took them to the place where Jesus was.  When they saw the baby Jesus they gave him special presents of gold, incense and myrrh.  (Show the gift).  These gifts were not what you might take to a newborn baby; but they were just right for someone so special, like Jesus.

Music and parcel 11.


  1. When the question mark is opened, ask the children why they think God sent Jesus to live on earth.
  2. Explain that Jesus was God’s special present to us, because he loves us so much.


Ask the children to join in by saying ‘Thank you, Father God’ after every line.

It’s Christmas time, and we’re excited: Thank you, Father God. There are lots of things that make us delighted: Thank you, Father God. For our families and our friends: Thank you, Father God. For your love, that never ends: Thank you, Father God. For excitement and fun: Thank you, Father God. And for Jesus, your Son: Thank you, Father God.

Song suggestion

Come and join the celebration, 323, Junior Praise

Get Ready – Advent


To help the children to think about getting ready for Christmas, and what Christmas is about.

Bible base:

Isaiah 9:6, Matthew 1 and Luke 1.  The birth of Jesus.

You will need:

A bag of objects which give clues to special events eg sunglasses and suntan cream for a holiday; some baby powder and a bib for a new baby; some make-up and a hat for a wedding; some decorations and an Advent calendar.



  1. Play a guessing game with the objects in a bag, asking what the children think you might be getting ready for with each pair of things.
  2. Ask what they have seen happening as people get ready for Christmas – shopping, baking, putting up decorations etc.


Christmas is the time when people celebrate Jesus being born as a baby.  Hundreds of years before Jesus was born at the first Christmas, God helped people to be ready for his coming.  He sent lots of different people as messengers to tell everyone to be ready, because one day God’s special person would come.

These are some of the words that one of them, Isaiah, said ‘A child is born to us!  A son is given to us!  And he will be our ruler.  He will be called “Wonderful Counsellor”, “Mighty God”, “Eternal Father”, “Prince of Peace”.’ (Isaiah 9:6, Good News Bible)

Finally God sent an angel to tell Mary to get ready, because this wonderful baby would be born to her.

Show again the baby things that you have, and explain how Mary would not have got these sort of things together to be ready, but she would have made some preparations.

God also sent a message to Joseph, to tell him to get ready for the coming of Jesus, this very special baby.


  1. Ask why they think God went to so much trouble, telling people to get ready.
  2. Explain that Jesus was born so we could know God better and understand how much he loves us.
  3. Christians call this time of year Advent, a time to be ready for Jesus’ coming.  Suggest that as the children get ready for Christmas they remember the coming of Jesus too. If they have an Advent calendar at home they could remember Jesus as they open the door each day.


Ask the children for ideas of what excites them about getting ready for Christmas, and use these as a short prayer to say ‘thank you’ to God for each of these, and for Jesus.

Song suggestion

Come and join the celebration, 323, Junior Praise

Get Ready – Advent

Bible base

Matthew 2:1–12


To encourage students to think about why we celebrate Christmas.

Things you’ll need

  • 2 boxes.
  • Sheets of Christmas wrapping paper, pre-cut if necessary, ready to wrap the boxes.
  • 2 rolls of sticky tape.
  • 8 envelopes.
  • 8 cards.
  • 2 address lists (4 addresses on each).
  • 8 mince pies.
  • 2 sets of words of a carol.
  • 4 Christmas chocolates as prizes.
  • 3 more boxes, one wrapped in gold and the two others in plain colours, labelled with large letters: ‘gold’, ‘frankincense’ and ‘myrrh’.


• Before the assembly begins, set up a table with all the items necessary in place for the team game. As far as possible, make sure that the table is arranged so that the audience can see the teams’ efforts.

• Place the three gifts of the ‘Wise Men’ separately to avoid them getting spoilt in the team game. These could be put on view to act as a focus through the assembly.


1 Start by talking about getting ready for Christmas and students’ preparations. Ask for eight volunteers to take part in team game.

Note: check for food allergies.

2 Have two teams of four people in each. Explain that both teams have to complete four activities to do with getting ready for Christmas. The activities are:

  • Wrap up a ‘gift’.
  • Write four cards and put each in its envelope which must be addressed.
  • Eat four mince pies.
  • Sing a carol.

Involve the audience by having one half supporting Team A and the others supporting Team B. Give prizes to the winning team and encourage applause for all the volunteers.

3 When everyone is quiet again, comment that this time of year coming up to Christmas is called Advent. It’s the time when Christians get ready for Christmas – not just wrapping presents and writing cards – but by thinking about the reason for Christmas.

If appropriate to your audience, ask them what they think are reasons for Christmas (eg presents, parties etc). Say that, really, it’s a celebration of the birth of Jesus.

4 Talk about the story of the Wise Men. Ask the students if they can remember what gifts they brought to Jesus. Explain that each of their gifts tell us something about who Jesus is and what he had come to do.

5 Now, show the audience each of your ready-prepared, labelled gifts.


Say that gold was thought of as a gift for a king. Christians believe that Jesus is a King – God’s Son – and his special gift to us.


Explain that this was a substance with a strong smell which was used by priests, like incense. A priest was someone who talked to God on behalf of the people. Christians believe that Jesus, a bit like a priest, came to help us know God and show us what he is like.


Myrrh was a substance that was used to cover bodies before they were buried. Explain that Christians believe that this gift reminds us about Jesus’ death for us – so that we could be put right with God.


Encourage the students, as they get ready for Christmas this year, to take some time to think about these questions:

  • Where is Jesus in your Christmas?
  • How could you and your family include him in the festivities which started because of his birth?


In a time of quiet, encourage students to pray, or lead with a short prayer yourself, using this or similar outline:

  • Thanks for Christmas and fun: What do they especially enjoy about Christmas?
  • Thanks for Jesus: Ask them to think about the three gifts of the Wise Men and what those tell us about Jesus. Give thanks for his coming to earth for us.
  • Ask God’s help to remember Jesus this Christmas.

Note: Check first with school that it is OK for you to offer mince pies to students and that this isn’t a problem regarding possible food allergies.



Gifts – Christmas

Bible base

Matthew 2:11; John 3:16


To encourage students to remember that the reason for Christmas and presents is to celebrate the birthday of Jesus, God’s gift to the world.

Things you’ll need:

  • Party hat, large birthday badge (eg ’18 today’).
  • Five or six ‘presents’, eg small bags of sweets (optional, see ‘Note’).
  • A CD which the age group would enjoy for a party.
  • A bag of crisps.
  • A can of drink.
  • A CD of the carol you plan to use.
  • Equipment to play the CD.


  • Before the assembly, wrap up the ‘presents’.
  • Set up equipment for playing the CD in the assembly, and make sure it all works.
  • ‘Party guest’ volunteers. Before the assembly, enlist the help of four or five volunteers and give them one of the ‘presents’. Explain briefly that you are going to ask them to the front, bringing their ‘present’ with them, and then to act as if they are enjoying a party. You will tell them what to do as the assembly progresses. You might like to ask the teacher responsible for the assembly to select ‘appropriate’ volunteers for you. See ‘Note’ at end of outline. (Optional)


1 Start by talking about parties.

• Are they going to any parties this Christmas?

• Have they been to/had any good birthday parties?

2 Say that you want them to imagine how they would feel if the following happened at their birthday party.

(Put on a party hat yourself, badge with ’18 today’ etc at this point.)

Say that:

You are going to have a party. You invite your friends and they are all going to come. The food and drink look great.

(Bring out a token bag of crisps and can of drink!)

It’s all ready. Everyone comes.

(At this point, invite your ‘party guest’ volunteers to come to the front carrying their presents. Put on the CD, keeping volume low, so you can be heard. Encourage your volunteers to act as if they are at a party.)

Say that, all is going well. You notice that they’ve each brought a present with them – and you think, ‘Great – wonder what I’ve got!’

Then the music stops.

(Turn off the music.)

People start getting out their presents.

(Encourage your ‘party guests’ to look at their presents.)

You wait for them to give you the presents – after all, it is your birthday.

(Look excited.)

But they don’t. Your friends give each other the presents!

(Encourage your ‘party guests’ to give one another the presents and to unwrap them, dropping the paper on the floor, leaving you out.)

Ask, ‘How would you feel if this was your party?’

(Thank your volunteers and ask them to go back to their places.)

Say that the party is over. All your friends have gone and you have been left on your own with just the wrappings.


1 Say that maybe that’s how Jesus feels about Christmas. Briefly comment on how there’s lots of partying at Christmas. Then ask, about the meaning of Christmas, ‘Whose birthday is it anyway?’

2 Talk about how today we often forget that Christmas is about celebrating Jesus’ birthday. We get preoccupied with thinking about the presents we’re going to give to other people, and what we’re going to get. This is a contrast to the first Christmas when Jesus was the centre of attention and three very special gifts were given to the baby. Briefly explain that gold was for a king, frankincense for a priest and myrrh, used in burial customs, reminds us of Jesus’ death.

3 Explain that Christians started giving gifts to each other at Christmas as a reminder and celebration of God’s gift of Jesus to the world. At this point, you could read from the Bible: John 3:16.


1 In a time of quiet:

• Ask the students to think about the presents they plan to give, and the ones they hope to get. Encourage them to let every present, this Christmas, be a reminder of how God showed his love for us through his gift of Jesus to the world.

• Thank God for sending Jesus into the world for us.

• Ask the students if they can think of someone who is going to be left out of Christmas celebrations this year. Is there something they could do, or a gift they could give, to show them some of God’s love – just as God did for us when he sent Jesus.

2 You could finish the time of quiet by listening to a verse from a Christmas carol about God’s gift of Jesus at Christmas (eg the appropriates verse from ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’, ‘The First Nowell’ or ‘We Three Kings’). Alternatively, you could read the words.

Wish everyone a very happy Christmas!

Note: If you don’t wish to involve volunteers or it’s not easy to do so, simply use the outline as above, omitting the sections about inviting volunteers to the front and instructions to them as you talk about the party. You can still set the scene by putting on the hat and badge yourself, playing the CD etc.



Message for some shepherds! – Christmas

Bible base:

Luke 2:8-20

Teaching objectives:

To explore how Christians believe the announcement of Jesus’ birth to the shepherds shows that it is a message for everyone.

You will need:

  • Pictures of scientists, shepherds and politicians enlarged on to big pieces of paper/card.
  • 6 headlines enlarged and stuck to large pieces of card or the front of newspapers.

Introductory activity:

Show the assembly the pictures of the three groups of people. Ask what job they think each group does. Explain that the first group are scientists, the second are shepherds and the third are politiicans.

Show the assembly each of the first five headlines in turn. Which of our three groups should be the first to hear this news? Put the headline underneath the appropriate picture.


The shepherds would be last to hear all the world-changing news – they might have heard about the new ways to herd sheep if they could be found on the hills! The shepherds we are going to look at today lived 2000 years ago, before there were radios or newspapers, so they would have heard virtually nothing of what was happening even in their own country.

Christians believe that one night these shepherds heard the greatest news that anyone had ever heard. There had been about 700 years since God gave the message to Isaiah. (Only mention if you have done the assembly on Isaiah). On this night, the shepherds were given a world exclusive!

Look at all the headlines the other groups have. Christians believe that all these headlines came true the night that Jesus was born. He came to save lives, He came to be a ruler, He was sent from God, the King, and He would improve the life of His people. But, the amazing thing was that this message went first not to the scientists of the time (take their headlines away), nor to the politicians (take their headlines away), but to the shepherds (put all the headlines with the shepherds).

These shepherds were all out in the fields, watching their sheep, minding their own business, when suddenly, an angel appeared to them and told them that the person God had promised years before, whom they had heard about from their parents and grandparents, had finally been born in Bethlehem. And what was more, they were the first to hear about it! I wonder if they had ever been first to hear any news before?

So, why did they hear it first? The answer is in what the angel says. Show them the final headline:


The message of Jesus is not just for very clever or important people, but for everyone. Because of this, God made sure that the shepherds, who were not rich, important or even well thought of, heard it first. Christians believe that everyone is important to God and that He wants everyone to know about His Son Jesus.

Optional prayer time:

Show all the headlines (apart from the one about sheep herding!) and pray through them, giving thanks that Jesus is the fulfilment of all these things.





A message from long ago – Christmas

Bible base:

Luke 1:68-70; Isaiah 9:6-7

Teaching objectives:

To discover that the message that Jesus was coming from God was sent to people long before His birth.

You will need:

  • ‘Text words’ on acetate or card
  • a mobile phone with the text message ‘A child is born! He will rule forever from the throne of His ancestor David.’ Set the phone to send the message to its own number when you press the ‘send’ button. Alternatively, write the words out as a letter in an envelope.
  • A sign saying ‘Isaiah’ to put around a pupil’s neck.

Introductory activity:

Show the pupils the following ‘texts’. Are they able to translate them?

XLnt excellent

Pls please

CuL8r see you later

Pcm please call me

LOL lots of love or laugh out loud

Bfn bye for now

Mbrsd embarrassed

Today we are used to receiving messages from people almost immediately, thanks to e-mail, text messages, telephones etc. God has been sending people messages for thousands of years, but sometimes we have to wait a long time to see exactly what God means by his messages.

Imagine we are now in the year 700 BC; that’s about 2700 years ago! Let’s meet a man who lived then, called Isaiah.

Choose a volunteer and put a sign saying ‘Isaiah’ around their neck. Choose about ten other children to come to the front at this point too; you will explain their role a little later.

About 2700 years ago, the Bible says that God sent a message to Isaiah – you can still read the message in the Bible. Today we’re going to imagine the message coming through in a form we are familiar with.

Press the ‘send’ button on your mobile phone, or ask the first person in the line to open the envelope.

Give the phone to ‘Isaiah’ to read out the message to the assembly. Encourage the pupil to pretend to be excited.

Isaiah was very excited about this news. But then he got older and older and still this promised ruler had not appeared. Imagine that this line of pupils is a long line of different generations of one family. Before Isaiah died, he passed the news on to his son, so that when God’s promise happened on earth he would see and understand.

Ask ‘Isaiah’ to tell the message to the next pupil in a loud voice and pass them the phone.

Isaiah’s son was very excited too, but then, many years later, when he too was an old man and the promised ruler had still not appeared, he told his daughter/son so that the mssage would not be forgotton.

The next pupils should pass the message along the line.

Continue to explain about the message being passed on through all the ‘generations’, asking the pupils to pass it on as you do so, until the last person has received the message and the mobile phone. Check that the message is still correct.

The people had to wait a very long time to see God’s message come true. In fact, the people who first heard the message had been dead for hundreds of years before anything happened. Christians believe that God had sent messages to other people years before too, which gave other details about what this baby would be like; for example, which family he would be part of and where he would be born.

So when, eventually, a baby was born in the right place from the right family and when some amazing things happened around the time of His birth, people remembered the things that Isaiah and the others had passed down to them. They believed that this was going to be a very special baby indeed!

Optional prayer time:

Say thank you to God for people like Isaiah who faithfully wrote down what they heard from God, to prepare people for the arrival of His Son. Thank Him that we can still read these messages for ourselves in the Bible.



Message for Mary – Christmas

Bible base:

Luke 1:26-38

Teaching objectives:

To show that Christians believe God can have surprising things to say to anyone, not just important people.

You will need:

• Twenty-one cards with the following options written on them: Mary, Bob, Joseph; In her teens, In her twenties, In her thirties; In Jerusalem, in London, In a tiny village; The king, An angel, A ghost; God, The king, Another angel; You will be a famous singer, You will marry the king, You will have a baby, The baby would be God’s Son Jesus, The baby would be a great leader, The baby would be King forever.

Introductory activity:

Run the following multiple-choice quiz either with the whole assembly or with a few volunteers at the front. (The correct answer is in capitals.)

1. How long did the 100 years war last?

a) 100 years

b) 200 years

c) 116 YEARS

2. What is a camelhair brush made of?

a) Human hair

b) Camel hair


3. What creature are the Canary Islands named after?

a) DOGS (from Latin)

b) Canaries

c) Goldfish

4. What was King George VI’s first name?

a) Gerald


c) George

5. Where are Chinese gooseberries from?

a) China


c) Malaysia

Find out how highly the pupils have scored. There were a lot of surprises in that quiz. Today’s story involves quite a few surprises too.

Include the following paragraph if you are doing this assembly following on from ‘A message for Zechariah’:

Do you remember what Zechariah and Elizabeth, the old couple in the last assembly, were praying for? They really wanted a child, and God eventually answered their prayers when an angel came to tell them that they would have a very special son, who would prepare the way for God’s Son. The young girl in today’s story was definitely not praying for a child! She was surprised by what God chose to say to her.

We are going to build up a picture of what this person was like and then together work out the story of what happened to her.

Choose three volunteers to come to the front and help you to hold up cards that will tell the story.

Firstly, we need to find out what this mystery person’s name was.

Give each of the three pupils one of the following three names to hold up: Mary, Bob, Joseph.

Pupils should vote for which one they think the right answer is. Explain that you have already given them a clue! (i.e. you referred to ‘her’)

Tell them the correct answer and display the name ‘Mary’ at the front of the assembly hall.

Follow a similar pattern for the following facts. The correct answer is underlined in each case:

What age was she? In her teens; in her twenties; in her thirties

Where did she live? In Jerusalem; in London; in a tiny village

Mary was not an important person – probably no one outside her village even knew she existed! So, you can imagine her surprise when someone quite unexpected appeared to her one day! Who do you think it was?

Give them the following three choices: the king; an angel; a ghost

When they have guessed, tell them the correct answer and display it at the front.

What a surprise! Mary was very worried when an angel appeared before her! But the angel reassured Mary and told her not to be afraid. He said that someone more important and amazing than him was very pleased with her and wanted to give her a message. Who do you think this was?

Give them the following three choices: God, the king, another angel

When they have guessed, tell them the correct answer and display it at the front.

Mary was not expecting a message from God! She probably didn’t think that a young girl like her living in a little village was important enough for God to speak to. But God knew all about her and had a special job that only she could do.

So, what was the message? It seems quite ordinary at first, but actually it might be the most amazing message that anyone has ever received. Can you guess – or do you know – what that message was?

Give them the following three choices:

  1. You will be a famous singer
  2. You will marry the king
  3. You will have a baby

When they have guessed, tell them the correct answer and display it at the front.

Mary was going to have a baby! But this would be no ordinary baby – He was someone very special indeed. You may have guessed already who it was:

Give them the following three choices:

The baby would be God’s Son, Jesus

The baby would be a great leader

The baby would be king forever.

This was a trick – all three are right! Mary’s baby was Jesus, God’s own son. But the angel also said that because Jesus was God’s son, he would lead the people and would be king forever.

Mary was just an ordinary young girl when God asked her to do a very important task for him. Mary said yes because she trusted God and wanted to do what he said.

The Bible says that no one is too ordinary or unimportant for God to be interested in them. Christians believe he has things that he wants to tell each person and things that he wants only them do.

Optional prayer time:

Say thank you that God knows everything about each person’s life. He is interested in them, no matter how unimportant they feel.




The light of the world – Christmas




  • To think about the significance of light for Christians at Christmas, a festival which is all about the birth of Jesus, the Light of the World.
  • To consider ways in which we can show the qualities of ‘light’ in our lives.

Things you’ll need

  • Flip chart or similar divided into 2 columns– one labelled ‘light’, the
  • other labelled ‘dark’
  • A note pad and pencil
  • Words which fit the categories ‘light’ or ‘dark’ (eg love, peace, kindness, fear, lies, fighting etc) written clearly on separate strips of card or paper. Include the words ‘God’ and ‘Jesus’. You may like to have some spare strips ready so you can add other words during the assembly.
  • Blu-tack
  • A candle and matches

Bible Base

  1. 1 John 1:5
  2. Luke 2:32
  3. John 8:12


1 Show the flip chart with the two columns labelled ‘light’ and ‘dark’. Talk about words linked with light and darkness (eg sunshine, shadows, lightning, night-time). Ask the children for their suggestions and jot them down as a reminder for yourself of what they have said.

2 Ask them to show you whether they think these words belong in the ‘light’ or the ‘dark’ column, in the following way. As you call out the words they have suggested they must either:

  • put their hands over their eyes to show the word belongs in the ‘dark’ column;
  • flick their hands open and closed in front of their eyes to show the word belongs in the ‘light’ column.

3 Introduce another way of thinking about light and darkness. Show the words on the cards you prepared before the assembly (love, fear etc) one at a time. Explain any they don’t understand. Ask the children which column each card belongs in and then stick it in the appropriate place using Blu-tack.

4 Explain that Christians believe that ‘God’ should go in the ‘light’ section because the Bible says: ‘God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all’ (1 John 1:5, Youth Bible). Ask the children if they agree with this.

5 Talk about Jesus, ‘the Light of the World’.

  • Explain that at Christmas time, Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus. The Bible says that when Jesus was six weeks old, Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem to dedicate him to God because that was the custom of his people.
  • There was an old man in the Temple called Simeon. When he saw Jesus, he tookh im in his arms. He said that Jesus would be a light for the people to see (Luke 2:32).
  • When he grew up, Jesus said, ‘I am the light of the world. The person who follows me will never live in darkness’ (John 8:12, Youth Bible).
  • The Bible shows that Jesus was a man who was loving and kind, a good man who helped people and spoke the truth, a man of joy and peace. (You could remind the children of some examples from Jesus’ life).

6 If the children think these things written about Jesus are true, which side of the chart should ‘Jesus’ should go on? Christians believe that Jesus always showed these qualities of ‘light’ in his life and never those of ‘darkness’.


A Christian viewpoint

Light is special for Christians at Christmas time, because they remember the qualities of ‘light’ lived out by Jesus, as they celebrate his birth. Christians believe that following Jesus brings these qualities of ‘light’ into their lives as well.

For everyone

Look at the words you have stuck in the ‘light’ column. Ask the children which qualities of light others might see in them.


1 Light the candle. Ask the children: If you go into a dark room and turn on the light, what happens to the darkness? Does the darkness ever put out the light? Christians believe that these qualities of ‘light’ are ‘stronger’ than the things that are on the ‘dark’ side, just like light is ‘stronger’ than darkness.

2 Look again at the words on the ‘light’ side. Ask the children to think about situations where they might be able to show ‘light’ in the darkness.


Surprise, Surprise! – Christmas




To show that Christmas is about discovering more than the birth of a baby.

Things you’ll need

  • 3 shoe boxes with lids
  • Christmas wrapping paper
  • 3 gift tags
  • 3 presents that no one would ever want! (Eg a brick, some rubbish from the bin, an empty perfume or after-shave bottle)
  • Sellotape
  • Lots of money (notes only)
  • A flipchart and a pen (for the ‘Response’ time)
  • A Christmas wrapped box containing enough sweets for all the children in the assembly (only for the Key Stage 1 option)


1 Wrap the boxes and the lids separately with the Christmas wrapping paper. For each box, hide some of the money between the wrapping paper and the box. The paper has to be removed during your presentation, so don’t tape the edges down too well.

2 Once you’ve wrapped the boxes, place a ‘present’ into each one and write the name of the person who will receive it onto the gift tag. Choose three adults who will be at the assembly to receive the presents, to avoid upsetting children.

Bible Base

John 3:16a


1 Talk to the children about Christmas – the story of the birth of Jesus which is celebrated all over the world by millions of people.

  • Ask some questions to make them think about Christmas being celebrated all over the world (eg do they know which parts of the world will be hot/cold at Christmas?)
  • Ask if they know where we can read the story.
  • Explain that we give presents to each other at Christmas in the same way that the Wise Men gave their presents to Mary and Joseph for their son, Jesus. Ask if the children can remember what the gifts were.

2 Tell the children that you have gifts for three people. They are for…surprise, surprise… Read out the names on the gift tags. You could ask three children to deliver the gifts to the appropriate adults.

3 When the three people have received their presents, ask each one in turn to open them and show everyone what they have been given. Ask each person what they think of their ‘gift’! Ask them to give their honest reactions (eg ‘Rubbish!’ ‘Disgusting!’ etc). It shouldn’t take too much persuasion to encourage them to give you back your presents (and the boxes). When they do, act as if you are really disappointed about having your gifts rejected.

4 Once all the gifts have been returned to you, let the children see you smiling as if you know something that they don’t! Then choose one of the boxes and show everyone the present (eg the brick). Put it to one side and then pull out the money which is hidden in the box and lid. As you are doing this talk to the children about how X (the name of the person who received the gift) was so busy looking at what she thought was the gift, that she managed to miss the greater present. It was there for her and she would have found it if she had only looked a bit harder. Show the money. Ask the adults who were given the gifts how they feel about their loss!


A Christian viewpoint

1 Read the first part of John 3:16 from the Good News Bible:

God loved the world so much, that he gave his only Son…

Explain that the Bible teaches that this is what the Christmas story is all about. Christians believe that God gave the greatest present ever – his own son, born as a baby in Bethlehem, born so that people could be friends with God.

2 Say that today…(name your adult helpers)…looked at the presents they were given and decided to reject them. We all know what they missed out now on don’t we? Explain that the Bible teaches that God gave the gift of his Son Jesus at Christmas. Some people say ‘Thank you’ to God for his gift. Some people say ‘No thanks’. And some people are still thinking about it.

For everyone

For those who believe the Bible’s teaching about Jesus, Christmas is one of the most important times of the year. Those who don’t believe, or who are not sure, can still enjoy the presents, the parties and all the good things of Christmas and in school we can all enjoy the celebrations together.


1 Ask the children what things we can enjoy together about Christmas. Using the flipchart, write down their ideas and then use them as a focus for their thoughts or prayers.

2 Allow about fifteen seconds of silence to think – or talk to God – about what has been written.

Key Stage 1 option

1 Instead of the surprise ‘horrible’ present, give a member of the staff a Christmas-wrapped box which contains enough sweets for all the children (could be expensive!).

2 Ask the children whether the person receiving the gift said ‘Thank you’. Point out that they don’t know what the gift is. It could be something really horrible. Let the member of staff open the box. Then ask him/her to show the children what the gift is, explain who it is for and when they will be allowed to eat the sweets!

3 Talk about the gift God gave at Christmas and what different responses people might make to it. (Then continue as above in the ‘Application’ section.)