Scripture: Luke 2:1-20 and Matthew 2:1-12
- Students will learn Jesus fulfilled several Old Testament prophecies during the events surrounding his birth.
- Students will learn the shepherds and angels rejoiced and worshipped the ultimate shepherd, Jesus.
- Students will learn the wise men recognized Jesus as the King of Kings and brought him gifts usually given to royalty.
- Students will learn common mistakes in details about the birth story of Jesus.
Guiding Question: How can students learn to decipher mistakes they may hear about the birth story?
Procedure: Teach the story of the birth of Jesus. Talk with the students about how shepherds and angels rejoiced because they knew Jesus was the true King. Explain that it may not seem like it matters that people get a lot of the details of the birth of Jesus wrong, after all, the really important thing was that he was born, right? Actually, it matters because there are Old Testament prophecies about The Messiah. If Jesus had been born in Jerusalem instead of Bethlehem, he could not have been the Messiah. It’s also important to get scripture right, because they sometimes contain God’s commands and principles. If someone changes them, we won’t know what God really wants us to do.
Common mistakes in the telling of the birth of Jesus:
- Christ was born on Christmas Day. We don’t have any idea when Jesus was actually born. Many believe, it is more likely Jesus was born in the Spring or Fall. You can tell your kids some Christians chose this day to celebrate the birth of Jesus, but not because they knew it was his actual birthday.
- There were three wisemen. We actually don’t know for sure how many wisemen traveled to worship Jesus. The number three became attached because the wise men brought three gifts. Similar groups historically had five or more men and possibly their servants, too. (They also weren’t the kings of the Christmas song. They were magi or wisemen.)
- Mary rode to Bethlehem on a donkey. Since she was pregnant, it is not hard to believe she did ride a donkey to keep from having to walk that far. The Bible, however, makes no mention of how Mary and Joseph got to Bethlehem.
- Jesus was born in a stable or barn. While we know Jesus was swaddled and laid in a manger, the stable part is a bit of a misconception. There are two common opinions of what actually happened. One was that animals often spent the night in a cave. The other is that Mary and Joseph were staying with relatives. The guest room was full of other relatives, so they were staying on the first floor of the house. Many households with only a few animals brought them into the first floor of the home at night. (This still happened in places like Ireland hundreds of years after Jesus.) There weren’t what we would call traditional wooden stables or barns in the area at the time of Jesus.
- The shepherds and wisemen showed up the night Jesus was born. While the shepherds may have come the night Jesus was born, we are pretty sure the wisemen arrived much later. Their journey was long and King Herod later killed all of the boys under the age of two years, indicating he believed Jesus was probably not a newborn.
- Jesus was born in 1 A.D. The calendar thing can get confusing. The Bible doesn’t give us the exact year of Jesus’ birth. Based on other information provided in Luke about rulers, most historians believe it is more likely Jesus was born about 5 B.C. (or B.C.E.)
If time allows, tell other Bible stories with common mistakes people make in telling them and see if students can catch the mistakes.
Additional Questions: How can students learn to respond to misconceptions about Christianity?
Supplemental Activity: Have students share common misconceptions they hear about God or Christians and discuss why people may have those misconceptions and what to say in response to them.