Supplies needed: Photocopies of Luke 1:1-4 double spaced, coffee filters cut into 1×2″ strips, small cups with 1/4 inch of water, tape and straws, three kinds of black markers.
Introduction: I adapted a science lesson to introduce the idea of investigating the source of our information. I showed the students a “Merry Christmas” message written on the uncut coffee filter paper. Then I showed them three markers and ask for ideas about how to determine who wrote the message using clues from the markers. Someone may come up with the idea of chromatograpy, if not, tell the students that crime investigation often uses chromatography to analyze ink samples. Help the students set up the chromatography by drawing a stripe across the bottom of a filter strip with each marker. Tape the strip to a straw, lower it into the cup of water so that the stripe does not enter the water and wait for the colors to separate. Now take a sample of the “Merry Christmas” note and use the water to separate the inks in the note to match the correct marker to the note.
While the inks are separating, begin the Bible study with the Luke passage. Have students highlight key words in each verse, discussing Luke’s desire to get the evidence so that he could write the real story for those who did not know what happened when Jesus was born. Emphasize Luke’s careful plan to investigate and document using primary sources. Close by encouraging kids to take a fresh look at the Christmas story and to believe based on the evidence. Even kids raised in church may not know that Luke was not a disciple and had to locate witnesses to write his gospel.