As Christmas approaches, many families read stories about Jesus’ birth together. An illustrated story Bible is a wonderful tool to help kids visualize the people and places from Jesus’ time.

It’s important to present the Christmas stories in vibrant, engaging ways that align with the biblical accounts in the Gospels. But not all story Bibles follow the same process in presenting illustrated retellings. Here are a few features to notice the next time you sit down with a child to read about Christmas from a story Bible.

Angel announcements: When the book only includes the story of Jesus’ birth, children don’t get to hear how both Mary and Joseph received visits from angels. When we read retellings about the angels who spoke to Mary and Joseph from Luke 1:26-38 and Matthew 1:20-23, our kids hear messages that can help us prepare for Jesus too.

No wise men in the stable: The wise men are often shown with the shepherds, gazing at baby Jesus in the manger. This doesn’t align with the account of them entering the house and seeing the child with Mary from Matthew 2:11. Also we know three gifts were offered, but the Bible story never tells us there were three wise men.

Baby Jesus—a first look: An important part of a story Bible is the illustrated world created by the artist. In my work, we make sure artists depict people with skin tones and hair color seen in people from Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cultures. Seeing the baby with tan, brown or olive skin helps kids expect this kind of visual depiction every time they see illustrations of Jesus.

Practices

Here are few ways to go deeper the next time you read these familiar Bible stories.

Same and different: Review the Christmas storybooks in your family’s collection or get some from your library. Read the books to see what is the same and what is different in each.

Write your own story: Select and read biblical accounts of the Christmas story a few times together. Consider reading from this year’s lectionary . Then ask family members to tell the story in their own words. Jot these down, decide which parts to illustrate and enjoy a homemade storybook.

Learn it by heart: Long ago, Jesus’ followers didn’t have books to teach them about Christmas. Instead, they memorized the story and shared it with others. What part of the Christmas story can you memorize so you know it by heart and can teach it to your children?

Dawn Rundman

Rundman has a doctorate in developmental psychology and is the director of children's development at sparkhouse, the ecumenical division of Augsburg Fortress. She lives in Edina, Minn.

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