The Christmas story is a very familiar one, and most people are in the habit of combining the beginnings of Matthew and Luke in order to make one seamless story. The result is a wonderful and comfortable picture of the Holy Family, magi, shepherds, and animals all gathered around the manger inside the stable. These manger scenes provide one of the most prevalent visual images of the Christmas season; they are as present as the Christmas music playing in the shopping malls and department stores.
These two lessons are intended to challenge the participants to consider the differences between the birth narratives in Matthew and Luke. In addition, the sessions argue that Mark's Gospel left some important questions unanswered, and the other Evangelists crafted their narratives to address those questions. The sessions focus particularly on the addition of birth/infancy narratives in Matthew and Luke, but session 1 also discusses the beginning of John's Gospel. Session 2 expands the discussion to some important noncanonical Gospels and argues that these narratives suggest that questions about Jesus' birth and infancy remained an important topic of discussion within early Christian communities.