How to give your kids confidence that the Christmas story is true

Written by Alison Mitchell
Published on December 16, 2022

I used to work for a charity that taught seven to eleven year-olds the Bible in local schools in London. Some were Christian schools; most were not. Many of the children knew very little about Scripture or what Christians believed. The one Bible story they knew was the Christmas story, but they didn’t believe it was true.

So I would start my lessons with a quiz…

Christmas quiz-time

I gave the children twelve strips of paper with these twelve statements about Christmas on them. Then I asked them to divide them into two piles—the ones that are true and the ones that are made up. (I explained that by “true” I meant that it is part of the Bible’s account of the first Christmas.)

  • • Jesus was born in Bethlehem.
  • • Jesus was born on December 25th.
  • • Mary put Jesus in a manger.
  • • Jesus was born in a stable.
  • • Mary rode on a donkey.
  • • Jesus was wrapped in strips of cloth (sometimes called “swaddling clothes”).
  • • Some shepherds came to see baby Jesus.
  • • It was snowing when Jesus was born.
  • • Three kings came to visit Jesus.
  • • The kings were called Melchior, Balthazar and Caspar.
  • • Some wise men gave gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
  • • An angel told the shepherds the good news that a Savior had been born.

(You may want to take this quiz yourself before you read on.)

On their first attempt, almost every child created two very unequal piles. At first, only “It was snowing when Jesus was born” was placed the “made up” pile. The other eleven statements were seen as true. I would then start giving the children clues, such as: “There are three statements that start with ‘Jesus was born…’ but only one of them is from the Bible story.”

Eventually, after a lot of help, they discovered that only six statements are true—the other six are made up. Even their teachers were amazed at this! (Answers at the bottom of this article)

True or false?

The Christmas story is so common and in so many picture books that it can sometimes seem like a fairytale. One way to help your child trust in the truth of the story is to dig into the facts together. And as part of that, discovering what’s not in the Bible passage can help a child feel even more confident in what is there.

We find the Christmas accounts in Matthew and Luke. Both men knew that some of the things that happened may sound far-fetched at the least. So why did they include them? Because those impossible events point to the wonderful truths about who Jesus is and why he was born. Here are a few you could explore with your child:

Jesus’ birth was announced by an angel.

Most people discover that they will be parents at a medical appointment or by using a pregnancy test. But Mary was told that she would be a mother by a terrifying angel. And she didn’t need a scan to discover the sex of her child. Gabriel told her that she would have a boy—and that he would be God’s Son (Luke 1:26-33).

It was impossible for Mary to be pregnant.

You will know whether or not your child is old enough to understand this, but if they are, then this claim is truly astonishing! Mary was unmarried and was a virgin. Luke, who was a doctor, knew that a virgin birth was impossible. He could have been tempted to skip this part. But he includes it because it points to the even more amazing truth that Jesus is the Son of God. So Jesus was both God and human. Amazing! (Luke 1:34-38)

A bunch of shepherds were the first to hear the news.

Ask your child if they have recently heard about any new babies that were born. They’re most likely to know of babies born in your family or to close friends. They may also know of church families with young babies. But the first announcement of the birth of Jesus was to a bunch of shepherds. They didn’t know the family. They were strangers—ordinary people with a job that was looked down upon. And yet a throng of angels filled the sky with joy as they told those shepherds about a new Rescuer King. (Luke 2:8-20)

More unexpected visitors came from far away.

Matthew writes about the “Magi from the east” (Matthew 2:1). The word “Magi” can be translated as magicians, astrologers, or simply “wise men.” But Matthew tells us very little about these astonishing visitors. Why? Because the details don’t matter. What really matters is that these men knew that Jesus was God’s promised Rescuer King—and they had “come to worship him” (v 2).

Quiz-time part 2

You may like to take this quiz as a family. Start by explaining why you believe that the Bible is true. For example, Jesus believed that the Old Testament scriptures were true (Luke 24:44, Matthew 5:17-18); the Bible itself says it is God’s word (2 Timothy 3:15-17); and the places we read about can be found on a map (you could look up Bethlehem on a map online or in your Bible). You could also talk about your own experience of how God speaks to you through Scripture.

Then take the quiz together, using the Bible references below to check the true statements.

You can then take other opportunities over Christmas to reinforce the facts that we find in the Bible. For example, it can be fun to look at Christmas cards when they arrive. If the picture shows a nativity scene, does it match with the Bible’s account or not? You could also apply this to pictures in Advent calendars or Christmas scenes you see while out and about. Each time, thank God that the first Christmas really did happen, and that God sent his very own Son to be born on earth in order to be our Rescuer King.

And here are the quiz answers (with Bible references and explanations so that you can discuss them with your child):

  • • Jesus was born in Bethlehem. TRUE (Matthew 2:1; Luke 2:4-6)
  • • Jesus was born on December 25th. MADE UP (The Bible doesn’t tell us the date Jesus was born, or even the time of year. December 25th was chosen a very long time ago as a day to celebrate Jesus being born.)
  • • Mary put Jesus in a manger. TRUE (Luke 2:7)
  • • Jesus was born in a stable. MADE UP (The Bible never says Jesus was born in a stable—just that he slept in a manger. In those times, people often brought their animals in overnight to keep them safe. That would be in the downstairs part of someone’s home. There would be a manger there in case the animals were hungry, so Jesus was probably born downstairs in someone’s home.)
  • • Mary rode on a donkey. MADE UP (An old Christmas tradition says that Mary rode on a donkey, but the Bible doesn’t tell us how Mary and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem. Maybe Joseph found a cart for Mary to sit in. Or perhaps they just walked very slowly…)
  • • Jesus was wrapped in strips of cloth (sometimes called “swaddling clothes”). TRUE (Luke 2:7)
  • • Some shepherds came to see baby Jesus. TRUE (Luke 2:8-20)
  • • It was snowing when Jesus was born. MADE UP (This tradition grew because December 25th is in the cold winter in western countries. But Jesus was born in Israel, and probably in spring, so it wouldn’t have been snowing.)
  • • Three kings came to visit Jesus. MADE UP (There is a traditional story that says that three kings called Melchior, Belthazar and Caspar visited Jesus. But Matthew just calls them “Magi from the east” (Matthew 2:1). He doesn’t say they are kings. He doesn’t tell us their names. He doesn’t even tell us there were three of them!)
  • • The kings were called Melchior, Balthazar and Caspar. MADE UP (See the answer for the previous question.)
  • • Some wise men gave gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. TRUE (Matthew 2:1-12)
  • • An angel told the shepherds the good news that a Savior had been born. TRUE (Luke 2:8-14)

Consider a few extra resources:

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Alison Mitchell

Alison Mitchell is the author of All About Christmas, a fun and fascinating book bursting with facts about Christmas and colorful photography. She has served at The Good Book Company for over 20 years. She is a Senior Editor and is also the author of the award-winning Jesus and the Lions’ Den, and The One O’Clock Miracle, and a children’s biography of Queen Elizabeth II.

Read more about Alison

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