How well do you know the story of Christ's birth? Between today's interpretations and the traditional reenactment of Christ's birth during the annual church Christmas pageant, the story for most homeschooling families usually goes something like this:

1. Mary is with child and travels with Joseph to Bethlehem on a donkey for the census.

2. After they get to Bethlehem, the innkeeper turns them away because there are too many people in town.

3. The innkeeper feels sorry for them and puts them in a stable.

4. Jesus is born and laid in a manger, and he never even cries.

5. The angels are present and announce His birth to the shepherds in the fields.

6. Finally, three wise men arrive on camels to worship Christ with their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Are these accepted "facts" really the truth about Christmas? According to the Bible, our final authority on the subject, they're probably not true for the following reasons:

    • Mary traveled with Joseph to Bethlehem, but there is no mention of a donkey. She could have ridden in a cart or traveled in the normal mode of her day, walking. If they did have a donkey, it probably would have been used for carrying packs on the 70-80 mile trip (Luke 2:4-5).

    • No innkeeper is mentioned in the Bible. It only says there was no room for them at the inn (Luke 2:7). Most likely, flashing signs that said "No Vacancy" were not visible, but the Bible doesn't confirm that Mary and Joseph talked to anyone to determine if the inn was full.

    • Jesus could have been born in a cave, a barn, or even outside under the stars. The Bible simply mentions that he was born, wrapped in swaddling cloths, and laid in a manger. Since mangers are used for feeding animals, chances are He was near some type of livestock when he was born, but not necessarily in a stable (Luke 2:7).

    • Mary was in the third trimester of her pregnancy when she traveled to Bethlehem, but the Bible doesn't say that Mary delivered the night she arrived. Jesus' birth occurred "while they were there," which could have been at any time after they arrived (Luke 2:6).

    • Two of the first Christmas carols young children usually learn are "Away in a Manger" and "Silent Night." Although the words and titles to these songs allude to a baby Jesus who didn't cry, the Bible says that Christ was born a man and suffered in the flesh (1 Peter 4:1). Like most other babies when they are born, Jesus probably cried.

    • The Bible doesn't mention that the angels were at Jesus' birth, simply that they spoke the good news of His birth to the shepherds in the fields (Luke 2:9-14).

    • No mention is made to the number of magi who came to honor Jesus' birth. Three different gifts are referenced, which probably led to the assumption of three wise men. In addition, Jesus was probably two years old when they visited him, since the wise men did not arrive until the days of Herod (Matthew 2:1-16). After the magi visited Christ, verse 16 says they left by another way and Herod ordered all the two-year-old boys and younger to be killed in Bethlehem and the surrounding regions.

    • Jesus probably wasn't born on December 25, since the Bible doesn't give the exact date of His birth. Different methods have been used to determine the date of Jesus' birth; however, like the date of His return, no one knows for sure.
This Christmas, why not establish a new tradition and take a few minutes before you exchange gifts to read the real story of Jesus' birth from Luke 2:1-20. Reading this passage as a homeschooling family will not only make for a more meaningful Christmas, but it will also keep the truth of our beloved Savior's birth accurate for future generations.