Where to Find the Christmas Story in Your Bible
Matthew 1:18-25, 2:1-12; Luke 1:26-38, 2:1-20.
The Conception of Jesus
Mary, a young teenager living in the village of Nazareth, was engaged to be married to Joseph, a Jewish carpenter. One day God sent an angel to visit Mary. The angel told Mary that she would conceive a son by the power of the Holy Spirit. She would give birth to this child and name him Jesus.
At first, Mary was afraid and troubled by the angel’s words. Being a virgin, Mary questioned the angel, “How can this happen?”
The angel explained that the child would be God’s own Son and that nothing is impossible with God. Humbled and in awe, Mary believed the angel of the Lord and rejoiced in God her Savior.
Surely Mary reflected with wonder on the words of Isaiah 7:14:
“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” (NIV)
The Birth of Jesus
So, while Mary was still engaged to Joseph, she miraculously became pregnant just as the angel had said. When Mary told Joseph she was pregnant, he must have felt disgraced. He knew the child was not his own, and Mary’s apparent unfaithfulness carried a grave social stigma. Joseph had the right to divorce Mary, and under Jewish law, she could be put to death by stoning.
Although Joseph’s initial reaction was to break the engagement, the appropriate thing for a righteous man to do, he treated Mary with extreme kindness. He did not want to cause her further shame and decided to act quietly.
But God sent an angel to Joseph in a dream to verify Mary’s story and reassure him that his marriage to her was God’s will. The angel explained that the child was conceived by the Holy Spirit, that his name would be Jesus, and that he was the Messiah.
When Joseph woke from his dream, he willingly obeyed God and took Mary to be his wife in spite of the public humiliation he would face. Joseph’s noble character was one reason God chose him to be Messiah’s earthly father.
At that time, Caesar Augustus decreed that a census would be taken. Every person in the Roman world had to return to his or her hometown to register. Joseph, being of the line of David, was required to go to Bethlehem to register with Mary.
While in Bethlehem, Mary gave birth to Jesus. Because of the census, the inn was overcrowded, and Mary gave birth in a crude stable. She wrapped the baby in cloths and placed him in a manger.
Shepherds Worship the Savior
In a nearby field, an angel of the Lord appeared to shepherds who were tending flocks of sheep by night. The angel announced that the Savior of the world had been born in the town of David. Suddenly a great host of heavenly beings appeared with the angel and began singing praises to God. As the angelic beings departed, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see the Christ-child!”
They hurried to the village and found Mary, Joseph, and the baby. The shepherds shared with everyone what the angel had said about the newborn Messiah. Then they went on their way praising and glorifying God.
But Mary kept quiet, treasuring their words in her heart.
The Magi Bring Gifts
The wise men came to the Jewish rulers in Jerusalem and asked where the Christ was to be born. The rulers explained, “In Bethlehem in Judea,” referring to Micah 5:2. Herod secretly met with the Magi and asked them to report back after they found the child. Herod told the Magi that he wanted to worship the babe. But secretly Herod was plotting to kill the child.
The wise men continued to follow the star in search of the newborn king. They found Jesus with his mother in Bethlehem.
The Magi bowed and worshiped him, offering treasures of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. When they departed, they did not return to Herod. They had been warned in a dream of his plot to destroy the child.
Points of Interest From the Story
- By the time the wise men visited Mary and Jesus, the child was likely two years old.
- Jesus was called Immanuel (which means “God with us”), as foretold by the prophet Isaiah. God in the flesh came to live with mankind. Just as the Holy Spirit made this possible in the Christmas story, the same Spirit makes Jesus Christ present today in the life of every believer. It’s likely that not even Isaiah understood the full and far-reaching meaning of this name.
- The Christmas angel, Gabriel, appeared not only to Zechariah and Mary but also to Daniel the prophet more than 500 years before the Christmas story.
- Mary was an unlikely candidate to be honored with the role of mother to the Savior. She was a young, poor female. In her day, these traits disqualified her as someone God would use for any important purpose. Like Mary, you may feel less than qualified to serve God. But Mary trusted God and humbly obeyed him. Don’t set limits on God and what he may want to do with your life. He will use you, too, if you trust in him.