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Sharing the Christmas Story with Kids with Disabilities

In the midst of the hustle and bustle of Christmas, make time to share the true meaning of Christmas with your children.  It's easy for children to quickly confuse Santa and Jesus. Help them understand that the Jesus birthday story is real. Some Christmas stories are just for fun, but Jesus really had a birthday. We hope the below activities will help you share and celebrate the birth of our Savior with children of all levels of ability this season and throughout the year.

Nativity Scene

Photo Credit: Jeff Weese, http://flic.kr/p/7kM1p3

  • Use figures you display in your home or environment. Let them understand that the manger scene on your mantle is actually parts of the important Christmas story.

  • Children LOVE birthdays and they typically understand how special it is – use this concept to relate their birthday to Jesus’ birthday by throwing a birthday party for Jesus.
    • Tell the story of his birthday (compare to the story of your child's birthday).

    • Show the visitors in the hospital from your photo albums (Grandma and Grandpa, aunts and uncles, etc.) and compare to the visitors at Jesus’ birth (shepherds, animals, maybe the inn keeper - this is where you can use your manger scene figures).

    • Make a birthday cake (see below) and then sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Jesus.

    • Jesus has His own special birthday songs just for him - sing Christmas songs special to your child.

    • Think of a gift you could get Jesus for His birthday. (Perhaps this is a card that says ‘I love you’, a special ornament to hang on the tree each Christmas, a picture of the child decorated in a frame because that child is so special to Jesus, etc).

A Birthday Cake for Jesus

Jesus birthday cake

One variation of the Jesus birthday cake from the Happy Home Fairy: http://ow.ly/rw51a

Here is a “recipe” for a birthday cake for Jesus. Depending on the developmental level of the child, you may just want to have the same cake you would have on any of your family member's birthdays. This special cake may take on more meaning as the child gets older. (Other great examples of this can be found from Mary Rice Hopkins and Keepers Ministry.)

Use your favorite cake recipe to make this multi-layer cake.

  • The bottom layer of the cake is brown for our sins.

  • The middle layer is red for Jesus’ blood which was shed for our sins.

  • The top layer is green for life. We have new life in our heart if we accept Him as our Lord.

  • The frosting is white which stands for Jesus’ purity & righteousness.

  • Make a gold star in the middle of the cake top with frosting. This represents the Star of Bethlehem which led the wise men to Jesus. (Make a star with six points to represent the Star of David, the Jewish nation in which Jesus was born.)

  • Place a big red candle in the middle of the Star of David – this symbolizes Jesus.

  • Light the red candle in the middle and have kids light small candles from the red candle and stick them in the cake. Let our lights shine before men!

  • Then sing Happy Birthday to Jesus!!

Not sure how to talk to your friend with special needs about Jesus? This post has some ideas and activities for sharing Jesus with a child with Down Syndrome that might be helpful. Our friend Jolene Philo recently shared on her blog, Different Dream, some creative ways to teach kids with special needs about salvation.

You might also find The Christmas Book from Friendship Ministries and Max Lucado’s The Crippled Lamb helpful as you talk with your child or Sunday school class about the true meaning of Christmas.

Barb Newman 2 April 2011
Barbara J. Newman
Church and School Consultant

Barbara J. Newman (1962-2020) was the Director of Church Services at All Belong. For over 30 years, she endeavored to create communities of inclusion through All Belong. Co-administrating the inclusion program at Zeeland Christian School allowed her to stay on top of best practices which she shared at schools and churches nationwide and in her books and practical resources, including Autism and Your Church, Helping Kids Include Kids with Disabilities, the Inclusion Awareness Kit, Nuts & Bolts of Inclusive Education, and her latest title, Accessible Gospel, Inclusive Worship.