As we explore the Bible, one of our goals is to teach with integrity and truth the whole council of Scripture. Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, and should be, but for some reason, Christian leaders who steadfastly adhere to strict scriptural interpretation, will let things creep into the Christmas story that aren’t even mentioned in the Bible.
As I taught my group the Christmas story a few weeks ago, I engaged them in discussions to see what they ‘knew’ about Christmas. It was amazing that some of their answers hit the same marks as these. Let’s look at three things that are commonly taught that cannot be proven by Scripture.
1. Jesus was born on December 25th. Not accounting for the fact that the calendar at that time didn’t have the same months we use today on our English calendars, there seems to be plenty of evidence that Jesus likely wasn’t born during the winter months when we celebrate Christmas. Biblical evidence such as the ordered census, and the fact that shepherds were living outside, lead us to believe that Jesus was likely born in the fall and not in the winter. We can tell kids that December 25th is the date we choose to celebrate the birth of Jesus, but we should never tell kids it is the actual date when Jesus was born.
2. The wise men showed up on the night Jesus was born. Your nativity at home likely has the wise men as participants in the birth narrative, when in fact, they probably were not there the same night when Jesus was born. The narratives in Matthew and Luke were written by two different persons and were written for different reasons. Matthew’s account of the wise men’s visit mentions details about Jesus’ birth that lead some to think these events could have taken place up to two years after Jesus’ birth. The simple fact is, the Bible does not tell us they were there on the night of Jesus’ birth, so we need to be cautious about teaching this as truth.
3. Jesus was born in a wooden stable. Biblical interpretation on the words used for stable can vary greatly. The place where Jesus was born could have been anything from a cave, to the lower part of a relatives house. The Bible tells us only that Jesus was placed in a manger. Typical homes had in them lodging places for animals, or their animals were housed in nearby caves to keep them out of the elements. Either way, our typical nativity scene with a single lone wooden structure stuck on a hill is not the likely place of the birth of the Savior of the world.
When you share the Christmas story this season, keep focused on the truth of the text and give kids a great understanding of what Scripture teaches about the most wonderful story ever told.