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Jesus, the Refugee

An alternative look at the Christmas story

by Becky May

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To explore the Nativity story from a different angle.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need some Christmas cards that display a Nativity scene.
  • Have available the Aardman animation ‘Home’ and the means to show it during the assembly. It is 4.22 minutes long and is available at:
  • Optional: you may wish to use the CBBC Newsround website, available at:, or some recent newspapers, for the ‘Assembly’, Step 4.


  1. Welcome the children to the assembly and ask them whether they are looking forward to Christmas.

    Ask the children, ‘Which part of Christmas are you looking forward to in particular?’

  2. Ask the children what they can remember about the Nativity story.

    Listen to a range of responses.

    Help the children to work with you to retell the story.

  3. Ask the children what images come to mind when they imagine the Nativity story.

    Show the Christmas cards to the children.

    Talk about how the cards portray the story. Discuss with the children how the images are quite similar and predictable; they help to paint a picture of Christmas that is familiar to us, even if we don’t think very hard about the story.

  4. If appropriate, show the children some age-appropriate images of refugees in recent newspapers, or on the CBBC Newsround website.

    Ask the children what these images have to do with the Nativity story. Can they see any connection?

  5. Explain that there is a part of the Nativity story that we sometimes overlook. It doesn’t fit in with the images that we’ve seen on the Christmas cards, but it’s an important part of the story.

  6. Remind the children of the wise men’s visit to Jesus and what happened when Herod discovered news of the birth of the ‘new king’.

    Explain that because of this, Jesus’ life was in danger! Joseph was warned in a dream to take Mary and Jesus and leave immediately for Egypt. The new family were refugees, fleeing an oppressive ruler who wanted Jesus dead.

  7. Show the Aardman animation ‘Home’ (4.22 minutes long).

    Give the children the opportunity to share their responses to the film.

  8. Explain that after Jesus had grown up, he taught about caring for those who were vulnerable and in need, for those who were sick, homeless or lonely.

    When Jesus taught how God wanted people to be treated, he had already experienced difficult circumstances himself. God became fully man and lived a fully human experience. God’s teaching didn’t come from nowhere; it came from living a fully human life alongside others.

  9. Ask the children how the things that we have explored today might change our thinking about how we should respond to refugees.

Time for reflection

Invite the children to make themselves really quiet and take some time to think about the things that they have discussed this morning.

Invite the children to think about some of the images on the Christmas cards, perhaps showing them again as a prompt.

Encourage the children to think about the following questions.

- Can they imagine an image of Jesus the refugee among the cards?
How does seeing Jesus in this way change our understanding of him?
How does it change our understanding of the Christmas story?
What should we do about this?

Dear Jesus,
Thank you that you came into the world as a baby and that your story shows us how much you love us.
Help us to learn from you and from your experiences, as we consider how we respond to others.
Please help us to learn how to show love and care to other people.


‘Away in a manger’, available at: (1.59 minutes long)

‘Born for us’ (from Sing Christmas, Out of the Ark Music). An excerpt is available at:

Extension activities

  1. Offer some creative activities for the children to respond to this part of the Nativity story, such as creating some writing or artwork, or acting it out as a drama.
  2. Connect with a local refugee support network to enable the children to act on what they have explored during the assembly. Perhaps there is a seasonal appeal or project that you can support as a school.
Publication date: December 2023   (Vol.25 No.12)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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