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Things Didn't Exactly Go To Plan

What really matters at Christmas?

by Becky May

Suitable for Whole School (Pri) - Church Schools


To highlight how unusual the events of the first Christmas were and what really matters at Christmas. 

Preparation and materials

  • You will need a small holdall or suitcase filled with the following selection of props: a blanket, pillow, soft toy lamb, a carrot, small amount of hay and dustpan and brush.


  1. Today, I’ve brought something to show you. Someone I know is going to have a baby and she’s got this bag ready to take with her when she goes to hospital.

    What do you think might be in this bag? What would you expect her to have packed to take with her?

    Take some suggestions from the children as to what sorts of things a woman might pack ready to take with her to hospital.

  2. Shall we have a look and see what my friend has packed in her bag?

    Open the bag and bring the props out in order, from the most obvious to the more obscure.

    So, there’s a blanket – I suppose that’s for wrapping the baby up in. Then there’s a pillow. Well, I suppose the hospital bed might be a bit uncomfortable  . . .  Let’s see what else there is. Ah, a cuddly toy! Do you think that’s for the baby? 

    We haven’t found any nappies yet, have we? Let’s have another look. Oh, what’s this? A carrot? What would she need a carrot for? Look, there’s some hay, too, and a dustpan and brush! This doesn’t seem quite right to me. What do you think to all these things? Why would a woman who is having a baby need carrots and hay and not nappies and baby wipes?

  3. Actually, children, this bag doesn’t really belong to a friend of mine at all. Can you imagine a woman going to hospital to have a baby and pulling out all of these things? I wonder what the midwives would say!

    There was a woman, though, who had a baby who probably would have found these things quite useful. Can you think who I might be talking about?

  4. When Mary had baby Jesus, she didn’t go to a hospital. She didn’t even have a comfortable bed to rest on. She wasn’t able to take it easy at home with all her friends and family round her. 

    Mary and Joseph had to go on a very long journey just before Jesus was born – all the way to Bethlehem. When they got there, the only place they could find to stay was a smelly stable! 

    I’m pretty sure that the donkey who carried her on her journey would have appreciated the carrot as well as the hay. Mary may also have wanted to clear up the stable, sweeping it clean and making it feel a bit more like home before she had her baby! 

    I think Mary and Joseph would probably have felt like things hadn’t gone quite to plan. I don’t think they would really have wanted things to happen like they did.

  5. As we look forward to Christmas, we might make lists of the new toys we would like or make arrangements for our friends or family to visit us, but sometimes things don’t quite go to plan. 

    We might not get all the things that we put on our wish lists. Sometimes we get a lovely new toy, but it doesn’t work properly and has to go back to the shop. Our friends and family might want to come and see us, but sometimes people get sick and they can’t come round after all. 

    Christmas can feel like a time when we want all our plans to go well, but sometimes things go wrong.

  6. I think Mary and Joseph would have felt like things had gone wrong, but I don’t think God felt like that. The Bible tells us that many, many years before Jesus was born, God had told people that he would be born in Bethlehem – and he was! 

    He also told people that his mum would be a young woman – and she was! 

    Things may not have gone to plan as far as Mary and Joseph were concerned, but God knew what his plan was and he was taking care of Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus.

Time for reflection

Let us now be really quiet so that we can think about all the different plans we are making for Christmas.

In all the busyness, we need to make sure that we find times to be quiet and thank God for the first Christmas, when he sent his son, Jesus, to be born on Earth – exactly as he planned.

Dear God,
Thank you for the first Christmas and the gift of your son. 
This Christmas, help us to remember to not get worried about things that are unimportant.
Help us to focus on the true story of Christmas.


‘Away in a manger, no crib for a bed’ (Hymns Old and New (Kevin Mayhew), 59, 2008 edition)

Publication date: December 2014   (Vol.16 No.12)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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