The Christmas story in the Bible is a profound narrative cherished by believers worldwide, a tale of love, faith, and commitment that resonates deeply with those who seek the true meaning of the Christmas season. As we approach this special time of year, let us delve deeper into the intricacies of this extraordinary story, unveiling the layers of meaning and significance surrounding the birth of baby Jesus.
This timeless narrative unfolds primarily in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, creating a rich tapestry of events, prophecies, and divine interventions that combine to paint a vivid portrait of the birth of the King of the Jews.
The Christmas Story of Jesus
Where is the Christmas Story in the Bible?
You can follow along with the tale by referencing the stories from the Gospel of Luke, or the Gospel of Matthew.
Matthew 1:18-25, 2:1-12; Luke 1:26-38, 2:1-20.
Now, it is time to begin our story. The story of the birth of Jesus; the Christmas story; the very nativity that the season remembers. It is fitting that such a remarkable story should begin in such an unremarkable place…
In The Town of Nazareth, a Messenger Arrives.
The journey into this story commences in the modest town of Nazareth, nestled in the region of Galilee. It is here that we find Mary, a young and devout woman, betrothed to a righteous man named Joseph. Joseph, as a descendant of the revered line of David, carries the weight of history upon his shoulders, for he is destined to play a pivotal role in the unfolding of divine prophecy.
“This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 1:18)
“The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.'” (Luke 1:35)
Mary, a young virgin, is known for her piety and unwavering faith. It is in the sixth month of her cousin Elizabeth’s pregnancy that the angel of the Lord, Gabriel, makes a momentous descent from the highest heaven to the quiet streets of Nazareth. The divine presence of Gabriel is evident in his proclamation, “Rejoice, favored one; the Lord is with you.”
“The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.'” (Luke 1:30)
The magnitude of this message is beyond comprehension. Gabriel reveals to Mary the divine plan: she, a young and pure virgin, is chosen to conceive a child through the Holy Spirit. This child, the one foretold by the ancient prophets, is to be named Jesus, the Son of the Most High. It is an announcement that marks the beginning of an extraordinary journey, one that will forever alter the course of human history.
“The angel replied, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God.'” (Luke 1:35)
Mary, despite her initial astonishment, responds with unwavering faith and submission, declaring, “May it be to me as you have said.” In these words, she demonstrates her extraordinary character, deep devotion, and willingness to carry out God’s divine will.
“I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May your word to me be fulfilled.’ Then the angel left her.” (Luke 1:38)
The Disbelief of Joseph.
Joseph was a traditional man for his time. He was a Jewish man who took pride in his work as a carpenter and followed the laws of the land to the best of his ability. That is why, when it was revealed to him that his betrothed was pregnant, he was filled with shock and anger.
It was not an anger that was filled with hate and malice, but rather one of fear and misunderstanding. Mary was not yet his wife, and finding out that she was with child would be a betrayal and dishonor to him.
According to the laws of the time, Joseph could have had Mary stoned and put to death. However, Joseph was a good man, and he did not seek vengeance.
Soon, a messenger visited Joseph as well. This messenger told Joseph what they had told Mary; that the child would be the savior of all people, as the prophesied Messiah. It was then that Joseph decided to marry his betrothed and protect her and her family from all
Joseph would live his life as the father of Jesus, even though he knew that Jesus was not born of his flesh and blood.
“But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus because he will save his people from their sins.'” (Matthew 1:20-21)
Joseph, recognizing the divine nature of this revelation, chooses to obey the angel’s instructions. He marries Mary and becomes the protector of both her and her divine child, shielding them from the impending disgrace and harm that could have befallen them.
“When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.” (Matthew 1:24)
The Time Of The Census.
In the years before the birth of Christ, the region of modern-day Palestine was under Roman rule. The Roman Empire had spread its fingers across the land and imposed its rule to the Jews and Gentiles alike.
Meanwhile, in a distant corner of the world, the Roman Empire is under the rule of Caesar Augustus. The decree for the first census, affecting the entire Roman world, is issued. This decree mandated that every person must return to their own town for the enumeration. Joseph, being of the house of David, is compelled to embark on the long and arduous journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, the city of David.
“And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.” (Luke 2:1)
This meant that Joseph, and his pregnant wife Mary, would need to travel the arduous roads from Nazareth to Bethlehem–a journey of over 150 kilometres. This was a journey that would place strain on the pregnant Mary, and force them to find a place to rest once they arrived.
“So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.” (Luke 2:4)
This journey is fraught with challenges, covering over 90 miles of treacherous terrain, and it serves as the backdrop for the unfolding of God’s divine plan. As Joseph and Mary arrive in Bethlehem, they find the city bustling with travelers, all seeking lodgings in guest rooms. Yet, every guest room is occupied, leaving them no choice but to find refuge in a humble stable, amidst the animals. A feeding trough becomes the simple cradle for the birth of Jesus, the King of Kings.
A Place To Stay.
The town of Bethlehem was the historic home of the ancient King David–the third king of Israel. Because of this, any and all who were born of the line of David needed to return here to fulfill their duties for the Roman census. It was this that caused all of the inns in Bethlehem to be overflowing and unable to take on new guests.
The innkeeper was able to offer Joseph and Mary a place to stay for the night, but it would have to be in the stable with the animals. Being exhausted from their long journey, and Mary about to give birth any day now, they humbly accepted the lodging for the night.
It was in this place, this humble stable among the farm animals, that the king of mankind would make his divine entrance.
“And she brought forth her firstborn Son and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7)
On this extraordinary night, the glory of the Lord shines brilliantly. In the midst of the humble stable, Mary, a young woman of faith, gives birth to her firstborn son, Jesus. She lovingly wraps Him in strips of cloth and places Him in a manger, a feeding trough for animals. In this unassuming setting, the long-awaited Messiah makes His earthly entrance.
A King is Born.
Gathered in a field at night, was a group of humble shepherds. They were watching their flock in the night to protect them from animals and thieves. It was this night that the Messiah had been born.
“Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.” (Luke 2:8)
Beyond the city limits of Bethlehem, there are shepherds, men of humble occupations, tending to their flocks during the silent night. These shepherds, ordinary people in their own right, become the first recipients of the good news of great joy. An angel of the Lord appears to them, and in a moment of divine glory, they are enveloped by the radiance of the Lord.
“And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.” (Luke 2:9)
The angel announces, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good tidings of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the city of David, a Savior has been born to you; He is the Christ, the Lord.” The heavenly proclamation is met with awe and wonder as a multitude of the heavenly host joins the angel, praising God and declaring, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased.”
“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!'” (Luke 2:13-14)
Overwhelmed with awe and anticipation, the shepherds hasten to Bethlehem, where they find Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus, just as the angel had foretold. They share the wondrous news with all who would listen, spreading the message of the newborn Savior and His divine mission.
“So it was when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.'” (Luke 2:15)
“And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:16)
The shepherds left the stable that night proclaiming to everyone who would listen what they had seen and heard. They told any who had ears to hear that the promised king of Israel had just been born, and the Messiah was now among them. This message spread quickly, and
soon the whole world would know of the birth of this baby–this child who held the power of the most high inside him.
The Wise Men Bring Gifts.
In the East, a great company of the heavenly host guides three wise men, also known as the Magi, who have observed a celestial sign signifying the birth of a new King. Intrigued by this heavenly phenomenon, they embark on a journey in search of the prophesied King, whom they believe to be the King of Kings, destined to bring eternal life.
“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem.” (Matthew 2:1)
“Saying, ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.'” (Matthew 2:2)
Their quest leads them to Jerusalem, where they inquire about the newborn King of the Jews. King Herod, upon hearing of their quest, is deeply troubled and consults with the chief priests and scribes of the people. These learned scholars point to Bethlehem, as the prophecy had foretold, and Herod deceitfully requests that they return to him with information about the child’s whereabouts, feigning a desire to pay homage.
“When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.” (Matthew 2:3-4)
“So they said to him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet.'” (Matthew 2:5)
The Magi, once again guided by the celestial star, continue their journey. It eventually leads them to Bethlehem, where they find Mary, Joseph, and the child Jesus. Overcome with profound reverence, they kneel before the infant, offering gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, symbolizing His royal stature, divinity, and the sacrifice He will one day make.
“When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary, His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:10-11)
Herod asked the wise men to please bring with them the Messiah when they had found him. Herod swore that he wished to worship this child when he was found. However, it was a lie, and Herod had secretly plotted to kill this baby whom he saw as a threat to his rule.
Yet, forewarned in a dream about Herod’s sinister intentions, they depart for their own country by another route, protecting the child from the king’s treacherous plan.
“Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.” (Matthew 2:12)
The Story Today.
As we journey through the biblical account of Jesus’ birth, we find that this story encompasses the entirety of the Roman world. It is a tale that weaves together the faith of a young woman chosen to bear the Son of God and the righteousness of a man who willingly accepts the profound responsibility of raising the Savior of the world.
This narrative features angelic visitations, heavenly pronouncements, and the involvement of shepherds and Magi who recognize Jesus as the Prince of Peace and the Wonderful Counselor.
“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God with us’).” (Matthew 1:23)
With each retelling, this remarkable story continues to inspire faith, hope, and goodwill among all the children of God. It reminds us that the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. As we immerse ourselves in the biblical verses that recount this pivotal moment in history, we find that the story of Jesus’ birth remains a beacon of love, peace, and eternal significance.
“In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” (John 1:4-5)
So, as we prepare to celebrate the Christmas season, let us remember the miraculous events, the prophecies fulfilled, and the divine grace that unfolded in the birth of Jesus. It is a story of God’s boundless love for humanity, a love that took the form of a vulnerable baby, born in a humble stable, to bring salvation and eternal life to all who believe.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)
The Christmas story in the Bible is a testament to the enduring power of faith, the triumph of love, and the promise of eternal hope. May it continue to touch our hearts and inspire us to share the good news of great joy with the world, for in the birth of Jesus, we find the ultimate gift of God’s grace and love.
The story of the birth of Jesus is the most important story ever told–and that is why we celebrate the Christmas season each year.
What did you think of our Christmas Story in the Bible? Let us know in the comments below.
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