Historically, the Explore the Bible adult and student resources have included a stand-alone lesson to be used on or near Christmas day. We typically suggest using the lesson the Sunday prior to Christmas except on rare occasions where Christmas falls on Saturday as it does in 2021. We deviate from the book being studied (unless we are studying Matthew or Luke that quarter) to account for that lesson.
We realize there are people who want a series of Christmas lessons throughout the month of December every year. They love the stories surrounding the birth of Jesus and never tire of those familiar stories. To them, Christmas is a season, not a day, and their Sunday School lessons should reflect that same attitude.
We also realize there are others who want to continue studying the designated Bible book or books for that quarter without any interruption. They are not anti-Christmas but are rather pro-Bible. They know the stories of Christmas will be repeated several times in the month of December and would rather stay focused on the Bible book at hand. The Lifeway lesson dated December 20, 1914, was on the ascension of Jesus following His resurrection. This group of people simply want to return to what once was even if what once was happened before they were born.
We understand the tension. The team that works on Explore the Bible resources loves Christmas. We like the kindness generally expressed, the music, the lights, and the decorated cookies. We also value every Bible book, not just Matthew and Luke. The Bible contains 1,189 chapters so in a nine-year study cycle, we have 468 Sundays to cover those chapters. We are already making some difficult choices, so every dedicated Sunday that deviates from the study plan just adds to that challenge.
Providing one lesson on the birth of Jesus per year is the middle ground. We cannot ignore Christmas, especially since so many people are less biblically literate in our world today. We need to tell the Christmas story and we need to tell it every year. However, we need to be careful to not give it a higher status than it is given in Scripture. Of the 1,189 chapters in the Bible, four of them contain the Christmas story. More attention was given to the birth of the church than to the birth of Jesus.
Note: As reference, the last week of Jesus dominates the Gospel accounts as we have shared in a previous post.
The factors listed above point to why we deviate from the study plan and provide a stand-alone Christmas lesson for adults and students. We pray that God will use that lesson to convict people far from God of their need for Jesus and challenge believers to be faithful tellers about the true meaning of Christmas.