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The Shepherds in the Field: They Didn't Expect That!

An assembly from the Culham St Gabriel archive

Suitable for Key Stage 1


To consider the feelings of the shepherds when the angels appeared to them.

Preparation and materials

  • Ask the children in a class to each make one sheep, approximately 15cm x 8 cm. They can be made from card, cotton wool, fabric, textured paper and may be simple or creative!
  • Ask a class to make a large eye-catching collage of an angel.
  • Make a background on a display board and attach the angel to the background. Cover the angel completely with the sheep so that no part of it can be seen. These sheep will be removed during the assembly, so need to be easily detachable.
  • Make four shepherds in proportion to the backdrop, but do not put them on display. Give each shepherd a name and be ready to describe each one. Make the shepherds' personalities different so that a variety of children can identify with them.
  • Optional: pictures of shepherds in different parts of the world today.


1. Ask the children about the word shepherd. What does a shepherd do? What does the word shepherd mean? What sort of life would they lead, now and in the past?

2. Introduce the four shepherds. Explain that each one is different. For example, make one shepherd quiet and thoughtful and one loud and noisy. Ask which of the shepherds they think would be most like them. Explain that all the shepherds would be hard-working, ordinary people. Place the shepherds on the display.

3. Tell the Christmas story found in Luke 2.1-20. As the story is told, remove the sheep from the board to reveal the eye-catching angel.

4. Ask how the children think they would have felt if they had been on the hillside with the shepherds. Point out that as the shepherds all had different personalities they would have reacted in different ways.

5. Remind the children that even though shepherds were often very poor, God chose them to be the first people to know about the arrival of Jesus.

Time for reflection

Think about the feelings that the shepherds would have encountered on that special night in Bethlehem. Maybe they were peaceful, cold, afraid, excited, worried or full of happiness.
At different times in our lives we can all have these feelings. As the shepherds ran to Bethlehem they would have talked about the happenings on the hillside and expressed how they felt.
Who do we turn to when we have feelings or encounter situations that we have never experienced before?
Who can we turn to if we find ourselves frightened or unsure of what to do?

Dear Lord,
Sometimes in life we are surprised, worried or even frightened by things that are different.
Please help us to always be ready to ask for help when we need it.
Thank you that you are always there to guide and love us.


Christmas carol relating to the shepherds' story

Follow up ideas

1. Ask the children to draw a picture of the shepherds with thought bubbles expressing their feelings.
2. Taking the letters from the words angel and shepherd, and see if the children can create a sentence or poem about the story, for example Shepherd Happy Excited Prayer . . . )

Publication date: December 2015   (Vol.17 No.12)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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