Matthew gave the genealogy of Jesus Christ, and an angel declared Jesus’s divine parentage to Joseph. Wise men from the East traveled to find and worship the young Jesus. Joseph was told in a dream to take his family to Egypt to avoid Herod’s slaughter of children in Bethlehem.
Display a photograph of your parents and ask students if they can spot any traits you inherited from them. You could also invite a few students to bring in photographs of their parents and ask the class to guess whose parents they are. Ask students to discuss with each other any traits they inherited from their parents (such as eye color, hair color, or height).
Invite students as they study Matthew 1–2 to look for truths about the Savior’s parents and traits He inherited from them. This activity should prepare students to understand the truths that Jesus Christ is the divine Son of Heavenly Father and Mary and that He is the Only Begotten of the Father in the flesh.
Explain that Old Testament prophecies declared that the Messiah would be a descendant of David (see 2 Samuel 7:12–13; Isaiah 9:6–7; Jeremiah 23:5–6) and that an offspring of Abraham would bless “all the nations of the earth” (Genesis 22:18; see also Abraham 2:11). Matthew wanted readers to know that Jesus fulfilled Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah (see Matthew 1:22–23; 2:5, 15, 23; 26:55–56). The genealogy given in Matthew 1:1–17 shows that Jesus was the promised Messiah and the rightful heir to the throne of David.
Invite a student to read Matthew 1:16 aloud. Ask students to follow along and look for a title given to Jesus and to report what they find.
Explain that the word Christ is the Greek form of the Aramaic word Messiah, which means “the anointed.”
Point out that Matthew 1:16 also mentions that Mary was Joseph’s wife. According to Matthew 1:18, Joseph and Mary were espoused. This means they were betrothed, or engaged, and legally bound to each other but not yet living together as husband and wife. However, before the wedding, Joseph learned that Mary was pregnant. Invite a student to read Matthew 1:19 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Joseph intended to do.
What did Joseph intend to do when he learned that Mary was pregnant? (Explain that “to put her away privily” means Joseph planned to cancel the engagement privately without forcing Mary to face public humiliation or the possible penalty of stoning.)
What does this verse teach us about Joseph’s character?
Invite a student to read Matthew 1:20 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what happened to Joseph while he was considering ending the betrothal to Mary.
Why did the angel tell Joseph not to be afraid to proceed with his marriage to Mary?
To help students understand the meaning of the phrase “of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 1:18, 20), invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“Just as Jesus is literally the Son of Mary, so he is the personal and literal offspring of God the Eternal Father. … Matthew’s statement, ‘she was found with child of the Holy Ghost,’ properly translated should say, ‘she was found with child by the power of the Holy Ghost.’ (Matt. 1:18.) … Alma perfectly describes our Lord’s conception and birth by prophesying: Christ ‘shall be born of Mary, … she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God.’ (Alma 7:10.)” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1965–73], 1:82).
What do we learn about Jesus’s parentage from these teachings? (Students may use different words but should identify the following doctrine: Jesus Christ is the divine Son of Heavenly Father and Mary. You may want to suggest that students write this doctrine in the margin of their scriptures next to Matthew 1:18–25.)
Refer to the photograph of your parents and reiterate some of the traits you inherited from them. Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder James E. Talmage of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Ask students to listen for why it is important to understand that Jesus is the divine Son of Heavenly Father and Mary.
“That Child to be born of Mary was begotten of Elohim, the Eternal Father. … In His nature would be combined the powers of Godhood with the capacity and possibilities of mortality. … The Child Jesus was to inherit the physical, mental, and spiritual traits, tendencies, and powers that characterized His parents—one immortal and glorified—God, the other human—woman” (Jesus the Christ, 3rd ed. , 81).
What traits did Jesus inherit from His Father? What traits did He inherit from His mother?
Explain that because Jesus was the Son of an immortal Father and a mortal mother, He had the capacity to live eternally if He chose, as well as the ability to die. This divine nature uniquely qualified Him to be able to suffer for our sins, die on the cross, and be resurrected.
Display three wrapped gifts in front of the class or draw a picture of three gifts on the board.
Who brought gifts to the Savior after He was born?
Explain that the Gospel of Matthew is the only Gospel to include an account of the Wise Men. Distribute the following quiz as a handout or write the questions on the board before class. Give students a few minutes to read the questions and write their answers.
After sufficient time, invite students to read Matthew 2:1–12 silently, looking for the answers to the quiz questions.
Invite a few students to share anything new they learned about the Wise Men. Details in verses 11 and 16 suggest that it may have been as long as two years after Jesus’s birth when the Wise Men were led to the holy family (the Wise Men found Jesus in a house, not a manger, and He was a “young child,” not a baby). Point out that the reason Herod wanted the Wise Men to report where they found the Messiah was so he could kill Him (see Matthew 2:13).
How did the Wise Men know where to find the Messiah?
What can we learn from the example of the Wise Men seeking the Savior? (Students’ responses may vary, but help them identify the following principle: If we sincerely and diligently seek the Savior, we will be guided to Him.)
How can we diligently seek the Savior?
What did the Wise Men do once they found the Savior? Why? (One purpose for presenting gifts to the Savior was to worship Him.)
What can we learn from the example of the Wise Men offering gifts to the Savior? (Students may use different words but should identify the following truth: We can worship the Lord by offering meaningful gifts to Him.)
To help students understand how we can offer meaningful gifts to the Savior, ask a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“In ancient times when people wanted to worship the Lord and seek His blessings, they often brought a gift. …
“Is there something in you or in your life that is impure or unworthy? When you get rid of it, that is a gift to the Savior. Is there a good habit or quality that is lacking in your life? When you adopt it and make it part of your character, you are giving a gift to the Lord. Sometimes this is hard to do, but would your gifts of repentance and obedience be worthy gifts if they cost you nothing?” (“When Thou Art Converted,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2004, 12).
What can we offer as meaningful gifts to the Savior?
Invite students to ponder Elder Christofferson’s statement and consider what gifts they feel they should offer the Savior. Provide pieces of paper for them to write their ideas on. Invite them to plan how they will give these gifts to Jesus Christ.
Explain that according Matthew 2:13–23, Herod became angry after the Wise Men “departed into their own country” (Matthew 2:12) without telling him where the Messiah was. Hoping to kill the Messiah, he ordered that all children two years old and younger in Bethlehem and the surrounding area be killed.
Read Matthew 2:13–14 aloud. Ask students to follow along, looking for how Joseph knew what to do to keep his family safe. Invite students to report what they find.
Where did Joseph take Mary and Jesus?
Summarize Matthew 2:15–23 by explaining that Joseph, Mary, and Jesus stayed in Egypt until Herod died. God instructed Joseph through dreams to take his family back to Israel, and they settled in the city of Nazareth.
How did Joseph’s sensitivity to spiritual things bless others’ lives?
What principle can we learn from Joseph? (Students may use different words but should identify the following principle: If we are sensitive to the Spirit, we can receive revelation and guidance.)
Invite students to ponder what they can do to be more sensitive to the Spirit. Encourage them to set a goal to act on any promptings they receive.