Christmas is a beautiful time. Everything is decorated. The air is often filled with the smell of hot cider and cookies baking. Everywhere you go beautiful music is playing. It even provides a great opportunity to teach kids and teens about Jesus.
The problem comes when we as teachers editorialize the birth of Jesus to make it fit the way it has evolved in our cultures over the last two thousand plus years. Satan can, and often will, use those additions and changes to the story to try and convince young people they are being fed a bunch of lies about everything at church.
The more educated your students become, the more they will want to be “right” and perceived as “intelligent”. Your students will be taught to view “myths” and “fables” with a bit of condescension. Satan will put teachers, professors, writers, journalists and even the guy next door in their lives who will begin pointing out all of the “lies” in the story of the birth of Jesus. “If you (your students) have been told lies about that”, the scorners will continue, “can you really trust anything in the Bible?”
As an educator, I’m not suggesting we keep young people from learning and growing. What I am begging you to do though is not embellish the “Christmas story” or any other story in the Bible. When you add details or change details, you are putting down a potential stumbling block for your students Satan may later use to pull them away from God.
So here are some things you need to make sure you teach accurately about the birth of Jesus to protect your students from this potential trap of Satan:
- Jesus was not born on December 25. Okay, maybe he was. In fact, it is as statistically likely he was born on Valentine’s day or your birthday as December 25. Why? Because December 25 was basically a random date chosen as the date to celebrate the birth of Jesus. In fact, because of calendar changes, Christians in Orthodox countries often celebrate Christmas on January 7. Historians think it is actually more likely Jesus was born in the Spring or Fall, but even if their theories are correct, we still wouldn’t know the exact date. Please, please stop telling your students Jesus was born on Christmas day!
- Although we know Jesus was born in Bethlehem, we don’t know the exact spot. Yes, there is a church over a location in Bethlehem that claims to be on the very spot Jesus was born, but we really aren’t sure. Many of the locations that are now churches and tourist attractions were identified by the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine around 320 A.D. Granted, her time period was still relatively close to the events that had happened about three hundred years earlier. Just like anything else though, I am sure there were people who tried to trick her to make money for themselves, people who were honestly wrong, or maybe they were correct. A few things could be later confirmed through archaeological finds, but the birth of Jesus isn’t one of them.
- The shepherds and wise men probably didn’t show up with in a few minutes of each other. In fact, it’s more likely the wise men showed up quite a bit after the actual day of the birth of Jesus. Once again though, the Bible doesn’t give a specific timeline – so maybe they did show up shortly after his birth.
- We don’t know how many wise men came to visit Jesus – and they probably weren’t kings.The Bible doesn’t give us that many specifics. Just because they brought three gifts, doesn’t mean there were only three wise men. Those particular gifts were special items generally given to kings and other wealthy, powerful people. Just because they gave kingly gifts, does not mean they themselves were kings. If you are interested, there were probably 12 or more of them and most likely they were astrologers or magicians.
- As far as we know, there was no little drummer boy. I know it sounds silly to say this, but don’t forget scoffers can take things they see in what they classify as “Christian” media and use that to undermine your students’ faith. Make sure your students know what really happened well, so they can explain to those people that the Bible doesn’t say there was a little drummer boy either!
There are other more minor changes in most places. Other countries have added some rather intricate legends to the story. The important point to remember is this: Read your Bible stories carefully and make sure the details you are teaching are actually in the Bible. Passing on added legends may later appear to undermine the entire Bible for some of your students. It is worth a few extra minutes to make sure what you are teaching is accurate.