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A Christmas Bible Study for Kids
Stinky Shepherds

This Christmas Bible study for kids is the first in a series of Bible lessons designed to encourage children, youth and even us adults to discover the wonder of Christmas anew using our five senses.

  1. Hear the Bells of Hope - Hearing
  2. Light of the World - Sight
  3. Stinky Shepherds - Smell
  4. Up Close and Personal - Touch
  5. The Inside Gift - Taste

These also correspond with the themes for the Advent Season - hope, love, joy and peace.  The fifth lesson focuses on what's next - the wisemen.

shepherds pexels

A Christmas Bible Study

So many times we "cruise" through the Bible story of Christmas never looking at new sights, hearing new sounds or "smelling" new smells.  The familiarity has caused this amazing Christmas story to become stale and unexciting.  

There is so much there just under the surface though that we don't want to miss!  Have you ever considered why God sent the angels to announce the birth of His Son to a bunch of "stinky shepherds?"

Title:  Stinky Shepherds

Scripture:  Luke 2:1-20

Introduction  Activity:  Surprise Smells
Christmas Bible Study for Kids 

At least a day ahead prepare a few bags of smells.  Seal certain objects in paper of plastic bags so their smells will intensify for this introductory activity.

You'll want a few that smell really good smells and a few that smell really bad.

Suggested items: 

  • a Christmas cookie or a few drops of vanilla
  • a candy cane
  • piece of fir or pine tree
  • a boiled egg
  • vinegar on a cotton ball
  • coffee grounds

As the kids get settled, have them take a few deep breaths.  Ask if they smelled anything.  Tell them that today we're going to discover something new about Christmas using our sense of smell.

Have kids smell each item without being able to see it and guess what it is.  Have them label each either "good" or "bad" smells.  

Discuss other good smells they really like and then some of the worst smells they can think of.

Go back to the candy cane and discuss its smell.  Remind kids that candy canes kind of look like a shepherd's staff. do you think the shepherd's may have smelled?!

The shepherds that first Christmas may have indeed smelled stinky, but that did not keep God from choosing them as some of the first to hear the Good News the Savior was born!

*Note:  For younger children (or older) allow them to fill in the word "STINKY" when needed in the lesson for an extra bit of fun.

new baby

Christmas Bible Study for Kids
Point 1:  God Enters our stink

We know from the Christmas story in the Bible Jesus was placed in a manger when He was born.

Read Luke 2:1-7 out loud.

Ask for someone to explain what a manger is.

man·​ger (ˈmān-jər) : a trough or open box in a stable designed to hold feed or fodder for livestock

-Merriam Webster Dictionary


Photo by Alwi Hafizh Al Mumtaz @ Pexels

And since the manger was inside a shelter, it must have be in a type of stable where animals live. So how might this place smell?

...probably STINKY!

Now read Luke 2:8.

"And in the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields."

We know shepherds take care of sheep; so they too were surrounded by animals, AND they were staying out in the fields.  Therefore, they probably didn't have access to taking baths very often while out there.

In other words...we can assume the shepherds most likely were also very...STINKY!

In spite of all the STINKY, God sent His Son right into the middle of it.

This reminds us that God doesn't expect us to get all cleaned up from our sin before Jesus can come into our lives; Jesus came in the midst of our sin to do what we couldn't do for ourselves.

Romans 5:8 tells us - "For God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."

Jesus is the only one who has lived on earth and NEVER sinned.

Paul also tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:21 - "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."

Hebrews 4:15 also speaks about Jesus - "For we do not have a hight priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin."

This Christmas as we see mangers, stables, animals and shepherds in our decorations, may they remind us how Jesus, Holy God, left the perfectness of Heaven to step down into our stinky, messy world and be born a baby all because of God's love for us.

He is the way for us to come back to God and be saved.  We can't clean ourselves up or take away the stink of our sin, but Jesus can!  

Christmas Bible Study for Kids
Point 2:  Joy in the Unexpected

Read Luke 2:8-14

The angel said he brought "good news of great joy."  He shared that the Savior, the Christ had been born! 

The Jewish people had been waiting for this good news for hundreds of years.  God had His prophets in the Old Testament tell of an "anointed one" who would come to their rescue and be the Savior of the world. 

This term is seen in Old Testament Hebrew as "Messiah" and in the New Testament Greek as "Christ."

Look at the word Christmas and what do you see now? - Christ!

The Jews thought their Messiah would come as an earthly king to rescue them, but God's plan didn't look like what they thought it would.

  • Jesus came as a baby instead of a warrior.
  • Jesus was born in a stable instead of a king in a palace.
  • Jesus was introduced to shepherds instead of royalty.

Have you ever had something happen in a way that you didn't expect?  Did it cause you to be frustrated or angry? (allow for some discussion)

What if God's plan had looked like what the Jews expected?  Who could have had access to Jesus? Only the brave?  Only the "respectable" or rich? Only those of royal birth or with special connections?

No, God wanted the Savior to be for EVERYONE!  "God so loved the world..." (John 3:16)...even STINKY shepherds!

Think about it...

  • As a baby, Jesus was approachable. No one is afraid of a baby.
  • Being in a stable, anyone could come in and be near Him.
  • Common people like the shepherds could come and worship.  It didn't matter how they were dressed or even if they smelled STINKY.  What mattered was their hearts filled with worship.

We can remember that when things don't go our way or the way we think God should make them happen, God has a reason for the way He works and we can trust Him.

Our joy is not based on our circumstances or what's taking place around us.  Joy comes from the inside knowing that God loves us and is in control; we can trust Him to always do what is right and what is best even when we don't understand.

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." 

Isaiah 55:8-9

Read Luke 2:15-20

The shepherds were so excited and full of joy, they went and found the baby.  Their joy continued to overflow as then they went around telling others what had been told to them.  They praised God and others saw their joy and wondered; it caught their attention and interest.

When we think about how good God is and all He has done in sending us a Savior, we can be filled with joy from the inside too.  When others see us praising God out of a heart of joy, it will make them wonder what is so great about our life.

Christmas is a wonderful time to share the joy that comes from knowing Jesus

  • When we smile and rejoice, especially when things may not be going our way, 
  • when we are kind and considerate even to those who don't deserve it,
  •  when we keep our focus on Jesus during the Christmas season (or any season), 

others will notice and begin wondering how they can have such joy too... even when life isn't going the way they think it should.

Christmas Bible Study for Kids Summary

Aren't you glad God does the unexpected?  God didn't wait for us to get everything right and get ourselves all cleaned up; He offers to do it for us!

"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

1 John 1:9

And even when life may not be going our way, we can still rejoice remembering God is with us and has a better plan.  We my not always understand why things happen, but we can choose to trust Jesus and rejoice. 

...And by the way, God loves us so much He understands if sometimes we still need to at least ask "why?"  He desires for us to come to Him with our questions and fears.  He loves for us to seek Him out and talk to Him.

After we do though, it's then our choice to trust Him in spite of our lack of understanding and experience joy found in knowing "God's got this!" 

This is how our joy comes from the inside and then shows up on the outside for others to see...just like those STINKY shepherds shared the "good news of great joy!"

© Copyright 2022 Susan Smart

Christmas pink ornament

Prayer Time & Closing
Christmas Bible Study for Kids on Joy

candy cane single

Allow kids to either pass around or go to the bags of various smells.  Tell them if they smell something good to thank God for something in their life that is good.

If they smell something bad, tell them to thank God for even things that seem bad to them and ask Him to help them trust Him and find joy in praising Jesus for all He's done and Who He is - our Savior!

Find other lessons in this Christmas Bible study for kids series here -   "Packing Up Our Christmas Senses" 

Extended Activities
Christmas Bible Study for Kids

Christmas Craft 

This Candy Cane craft will help kids remember the shepherds because of its shape and the joy found in Jesus as it is a "J" upside down.


This Christmas craft is very easy for kids of most any age.  Our kids made them when they were younger, and recently I got to make them with our two-year-old granddaughter.

All you need is:

  • Red and white beads with a hole in the middle; we usually use the triangle type that fit together.
  • Pipe cleaners or bendable wire cut to the size you want your candy canes to be.
  • A small ribbon or string from which to hold it.

Bend one end to hold the first bead on and then "string" on the others to fill the wire.  Bend the the other end to lock them on and attach a string to hang.  It doesn't really matter in what order they go on; allow everyone's to be unique like them. 

Christmas Word Game

Have students make as many words as they can using the letters in "STINKY SHEPHERDS"  in a designated period of time.  

Example of possible words: ink, sky, she, dress, dressy, sheep, etc.

Give a small prize or big praise to the one who can make the most in the allotted time.  This is also fun to do with teams working together.

Christmas Bible Study for Kids 

This is a fun Christian Christmas song about joy which could be used to begin the lesson or to play during the extended activities.

Nativity 5

Another Christmas Bible study series - Renewing the Wonder of Christmas.

  These lessons look at Christmas through the eyes of those who were there the first Christmas and include activities for kids, youth & adults.

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