Making the connections (Whole Class Activity)
This section helps the pupils to prepare to write a more in-depth report and to consider how the Christmas story fits into the big story of the Bible.
As appropriate, show these three videos which explore the stories behind the shepherds, wise men and Mary. Invite your pupils to reflect on this information that will enable them to write a more in-depth report.
This provides lots of opportunities for differentiated teaching and scaffolding learning about this information. As appropriate, use the additional information after each video to explore the content.
Shepherds. For scaffolding learning:
In the culture at the time of Jesus’ birth, society was very hierarchical and shepherds were at the bottom of the social scale, with the same status as tax collectors and dung sweepers. They were considered to be worthless and incompetent. In the law of that time shepherds could not serve as witnesses in court, and no-one was obligated to rescue them if they fell into a pit.
Shepherding was originally a noble occupation as shepherds were considered to be brave protectors and providers. However, during the Israelite’s time in Egypt the clean-shaven Egyptians despised the rough shepherds and this prejudice became accepted amongst the Israelites (which is why the story of David the shepherd boy who saved the Israelites and went on to become king stands in such a stark contrast to the prevailing view).
So, when Jesus was born in a stable and laid in a manger, and when the angels announced his birth to shepherds, the biblical story illustrated how Jesus had come to re-order the priorities of the world.
Wise men. For scaffolding learning:
The wise men are sometimes called Magi or Kings. The biblical account doesn’t give the number, but the fact that there were three gifts has been popularly taken to mean that there were three wise men. The Bible records that they came ‘from the east’ and it is likely that they were Babylonians, Persians or Jews from Yemen.
In common with many in that area at that time, it seems that they looked to the stars to see announcements of momentous events.
The gifts they brought had special significance. Gold is a precious metal that kings collected to show their wealth. Frankincense is a resin gathered from trees and used in religious ceremonies. Myrrh is also a resin gathered from trees, and used in burials. According to the biblical story, gold (collected by kings) represents the kingship of Jesus; frankincense (used in religious ceremonies) represents Jesus as a high priest; myrrh (used in burials) points to Jesus’ death. Taking all three together the biblical story tells of Jesus as king, priest and saviour.
Mary. For scaffolding learning:
Some apocryphal accounts assert that Mary was 12–14 years old, but such accounts are unreliable. According to ancient Jewish custom, Mary could have been betrothed at about 12 years old. Certainly, according to the biblical account she was still a virgin, although betrothed to Joseph they had not consummated their relationship, which is why Mary was surprised when the angel told her she would have a child.
Jesus means salvation, but that would only be one of the names for the child. According to the Bible, Jesus also had other names. The prophet Isaiah said: ‘The people walking in darkness have seen a great light… A child is born to us, a son is given to us… He will be named Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.’