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Engaging Faith: Practical lesson ideas and activities for Catholic Educators

December 17, 2007

Infancy Narratives

During the week before Christmas, remind the students that only Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospels tell anything about Jesus’ birth.

Mark’s Gospel, the first written, opens with: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God (Mk 1:1). Although stories about Jesus ‘birth were likely in circulation among Christians communities by the time Mark began composing his gospel, Mark felt that there was more important information about Jesus that belonged in chapter one. From this verse we know that Mark considered it more important to tell readers of Jesus’ heavenly origins than his earthly origins. The stories in his Gospel that follow—the preaching of John the Baptist and the baptism of Jesus—further emphasize Jesus’ divine origins.

On the other hand, the Gospels of Matthew and Luke do include information about Jesus’ human origins. For example,

• Both have genealogies.
• Matthew tells of the flight of the Holy Family to Egypt, paralleling the experience of the Exodus of the Israelites.
• The announcement to and the visit by the shepherds in Luke’s Gospel is consistent with Luke’s theme that the poor and lowly are singled out for God’s blessings.
• The courage the magi showed in not returning to King Herod was similar to the courage many young Jewish Christians of the first century exhibited in abandoning their traditional faith to follow Jesus.

Listed below are several names and items associated with the Christmas story. Have the students guess as to whether or not they are found in Matthew’s Gospel, Luke’s Gospel, or both. After they have guessed, have them look up the correct answers by reading Matthew 1:18–2:23 and Luke 2:1–39.

Mary (M, L)
Joseph (M, L)
Caesar Augustus (L)
Shepherds (L)
Massacre of infants (M)
The Inn (L)
Bethlehem (M, L)
Nazareth (M, L)
Herod (M)
Magi (M)
Angels (M, L)
Turtledoves (L)
Simeon (L)
Quirinius (L)
Manger (L)
Egypt (M)
Star (M)
Swaddling Clothes (L)
Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh (M)
Temple (L)
Anna (L)

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