How well do you know the Christmas story? Take this short True or False quiz and check how closely your version of the Christmas story matches the historical account recorded in the gospel.
- An angel called Gabriel appeared to Mary
- There was no room in the inn
- Jesus was born in a stable
- Joseph and Mary were married when Jesus was born
- Jesus’ home was Bethlehem
- Shepherds gave Jesus a lamb
- Three kings came to visit Jesus
- “An angel called Gabriel appeared to Mary.” This is true. We read that Gabriel visited Mary in Luke 1:26 and told her that she would have a son who she should call Jesus. Joseph also was visited by an angel in Matthew 1:20 but we are not told the angel’s name. It is often assumed to also be Gabriel.
- “There was no room in the inn.” Many English translations of Luke 2:7 say that there was no room at the ‘inn’. However, the original Greek word is translated as ‘guest room’ in other gospel passages. The typical depiction of Mary and Joseph knocking on hotel doors and being turned away is misleading and they would most likely have stayed with relatives who did not have a spare room they could use. So the best answer is false but you can have a point for either.
- “Jesus was born in a stable.” This is false. We are told in Luke 2:7 that Mary laid the baby Jesus in a manger. Typically in Western Europe mangers are found in stables and so that has been the assumption. However there is no mention of a stable, or even a cave in the gospel account. A typical house of the time in the Middle East was on two levels. The entrance level would be where the animals were kept. There would then have been steps up to the main living area where the family lived and slept. On the edge of this area would be hollows known as mangers where animal feed was placed. It is in one of these that baby Jesus was placed.
- “Joseph and Mary were married when Jesus was born.” This is true. We read in Matthew 1:24 that after the angel appeared to Mary he took her as his wife but did not consummate the marriage.
- “Jesus’ home was Bethlehem.” Mary and Joseph lived in Nazareth and that is where Jesus grew up. He was born in Bethlehem and lived there until they fled to Egypt to escape King Herod. Jesus was still under two years old when they went to Egypt. After Herod died, Joseph brought the family back to live in Nazareth so the answer here is false.
- “Shepherds gave Jesus a lamb.” This is false. There is no mention of the shepherds bringing Jesus a lamb, or even that they worshipped him. We do read in Luke 2:16 that they visited Jesus and then returned to their flocks glorifying and praising God.
- “Three kings came to visit Jesus.” This is false. In Matthew 2:1 we read about Magi coming to visit Jesus. They were not kings. The word magi is the plural of magus which meant astrologer. The tradition that there were three of them most likely arises because they brought three gifts. Eastern Church tradition has it that there were 12 magi. All we can say for sure is that there was more than one.
How did you do? It is interesting how the popular version of the Christmas story depicted in school nativity plays is a mixture of truth and myth. Regardless of how well you did in the quiz I would encourage you to read the story for yourself in Matthew 1:18 – 2:23 and Luke 1:1-2:52. It won’t take you very long and will help you work out what is history and what is myth. Despite the embellishments, the key truth we celebrate at Christmas is that God became man and was born as a baby named Jesus. We’d love for you to come and join us at any of our gatherings over this season to rejoice in this good news.