You know the story of the birth of Jesus. Likely, you’ve heard it so much that it’s become mundane. We know it so well we don’t really think about it.
I think the Christmas story deserves a second look. It’s an incredible story that I think can come to life in a whole new way for you with a fresh look and perspective. And I think this story can radically change your life and your faith. If you let it.
So, let’s dive into the story of the birth of Jesus.
The Story Of The Birth Of Jesus
You can read the full story here: Matthew 1:18-25, Matthew 2:1-11, Luke 1:26-38, and Luke 2:1-20.
Matthew 1:18 and Luke 1:26-28 sets the stage for the story of the birth of Jesus. We are introduced to Mary and Joseph. A young engaged couple planning to spend the rest of their lives together.
But then a curve ball.
Luke says Mary is greatly troubled. You think? She knows that whatever comes out of that angel’s mouth next probably means her life is going to change forever.
Then a bomb is dropped. (Luke 1:30-37)
Mary, you are pregnant. But not just pregnant, but you are carrying the Son of God.
What’s Mary thinking at this moment? What’s she feeling? I know we read this every year and it’s lost its shock value long ago. But put yourself in Mary’s shoes. This is NOT how she thought her life was going to go. This can’t be real, can it?
Today we view this as good news. Good for Mary, that’s so great for her. What a blessing for her to carry the Son of God. But at that moment Mary probably isn’t thinking that. Her whole life just got turned upside down. Her life as planned, was over.
She could now lose everything. I mean Joseph’s not going to believe her story. He’s going to conclude the logical thing, she cheated on him. And in that culture Mary’s “offensive” could be punishable by death.
And all that was about to happen. Mary told Jospeh she was pregnant. He didn’t believe her “story” and was about to break off the engagement. But then an angel appears to him to confirm (Matthew 1:20-23). And together they decide to trust God.
There’s so much more to say about the faith of Mary and Joseph. They would have certainly faced public humiliation and retaliation. This was a hard path for them to walk down. But they choose to obey God despite the consequences.
If you want to learn more about this part of the Christmas story you can read about it here: 3 Powerful Lessons From The Story Of Mary And Joseph
Time eventually proves the proclamation from the angel correct, Mary is indeed pregnant. But the struggles aren’t over yet. Caesar Augustus decreed that a census would be taken (Luke 2:1). The way censuses ran in those times was that you would have to travel back to your hometown to register.
Joseph, being in the line of David, was required to go with Mary to Bethlehem. Now about to burst Mary has to make the journey southwest of Jerusalem. Talk about a hard few months…
We know the story. They showed up and there was no room in the inn (Luke 2:6-7). Don’t picture hotels being full. There would have been no such thing in small towns. Likely no one wanted to make room for the couple who was pregnant out of wedlock. After all, who would believe their story?
So Mary was regulated to giving birth surrounded by animals likely in a cave where animals typically slept. After the baby was born Mary laid him in a manger, a fancy name for a feeding trough used for the livestock. A humble beginning for the King of Kings.
The Christmas story is a story with humble beginnings and powerful lessons.
When a king, or any royalty, was born it was common to have a proclamation sent out. It was an announcement to let the world know what had happened.
What is shocking about the story of the birth of Jesus is who this announcement was first told to. Shepherds. (Luke 2:8-20)
Shepherds were about as low class as you could get in the 1st century. It was the lowliest of jobs. Shepherds couldn’t observe the regulations of the law because of the demands of the job. So they were social outcasts.
From the beginning of Jesus’ time on earth we see he extends his mercy to those society casts aside.
It was to these social outcasts that the first announcement of the king comes. And not just any announcement, but a heavenly host of angels appears singing praise to God.
Stunned and scared, but also excited that they are finally included, they make a beeline for Bethlehem to see the new king.
Traditionally the Christmas story also contains the 3 wisemen. We often think of the night that Jesus was born as this magical evening that would put any Hollywood movie to shame. They find a room in the nick of time, Jesus pops out nice and easy, and then all these people show up with gifts right on cue.
But that’s not how it unfolded. First, it was most likely highly chaotic. Have you ever seen someone give birth? Now picture that in the 1st Century– no doctors, and in a cave-like structure. It would not have been as silent as the song makes it seem. And second, no woman who’s just given birth wants a bunch of strange men showing up. In fact, during that time, the husband was often not allowed in the room during the birthing process.
It’s likely the shepherds showed up within the day. Jewish days began at sundown, so it’s probable they arrived sometime later that day. Or what we today would say, the next day.
But we don’t know when the wisemen arrived. It would have likely been at least a few days at the earliest and before Jesus’ second birthday at the latest. But the Bible doesn’t give us any more detail than that.
Either way, the wiseman are often lumped in the story of the birth of Jesus even though they likely weren’t present. But the significance of the Magi isn’t when they showed up, it’s in the gifts. Gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Gold was an appropriate gift for a king; it acknowledged that he was born to rule.
Frankincense was used in temple worship to anoint priests in Israel. In presenting this gift the wise men were pointing to Jesus as our great high priest.
Myrrh would have been a strange, if not offensive, gift to give to a baby. It was used for embalming the dead. This gift pointed to the sacrifice Jesus would one day make.
From the beginning the Christmas story is foretelling who Jesus is and what he will do.
You might also like: 6 Common Myths We Believe About Christmas
What We Can Learn From The Christmas Story
Let’s boil this all down. Here’s 3 lessons we can learn from the story of the birth of Jesus.
God Is With You
On April 12, 1961, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to travel into space and orbit the earth. The blow to the American psyche at losing this leg of the Space Race was deepened when reports began to circulate that, during his flight, Gagarin had commented: “I don’t see any God up here.”
In response, C.S. Lewis wrote a work called The Seeing Eye: If there is a God that created us, we could not discover him by going up into the air. God does not relate to us the way a man on the 2nd floor would relate to a man on the 1st floor. He would relate to us the way Shakespeare relates to Hamlet. Shakespeare is the creator of Hamlet’s world and of Hamlet himself. Hamlet can know about Shakespeare only if the author reveals information about himself in the play. So too the only way to know about God is if God has revealed himself.
This is the significance of the Christmas Story. This is why Jesus came to earth. God has revealed himself in the play that’s unfolding in the Bible. But he goes far beyond that, he actually writes himself into the story of humanity. He enters into the story not as a hero, but as an infant. Why? So He can reveal Himself to us in the most profound way.
God has entered into your story. He’s with you. It’s in his name, Emmanuel. Literally meaning God with us.
God is with you. Let the significance of that sink in. God is with you.
There’s so much more to stay about this, if you want more check out: The Significance Of Emmanuel For Us Today
God Is For You
The Christmas story doesn’t just teach us that God is WITH us, but also that he is FOR us.
Many of us have this view of God that He’s just waiting for us to screw up so he can punish us.
But that’s not his desire for you. He wants a relationship with you. He’s not waiting for you to screw up so he can say Gotcha and throw you into hell to suffer. Rather he enters into your pain and suffering (your hell) so that you can relate to Him and so He can give you hope.
Have you ever wondered why Jesus came as a baby? He certainly didn’t have to. He could have come as a conquering king demanding subservience. Instead he chose the most non-threatening form possible. A helpless, innocent baby.
Why? Because he’s for you. He’s not just after your blind obedience, he’s for you. He wants you to be able to relate to him.
This is radical and something no one was expecting. God doesn’t just come to restore creation to Him (he does that too). He walks in our shoes and suffers our pains so that His people can relate to him, and he can help them step into something better.
As Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it, “Only the suffering God can help.”
No other religion has a God that willingly suffers for His people. A God that can so deeply and compassionately identify with His creation.
Humanity longs for intimate relationships. Sure we hide it, pretend we don’t need it, but at our core, we were built for community. The Christmas Story shows us that God, the creator of the universe, wants a relationship with us. So much so that he is willing to enter into our story, our pain, in order to show us His love and desire for us.
That’s why Jesus came to earth as a baby. He didn’t come to conquer and force his way. Because he desires not blind obedience, but love.
Philip Yancey in Disappointment With God says this, He Desires what power can never win. He is a King who wants not subservience, but love. Thus, rather than mowing down Jerusalem, Rome, and every other world’s power, he chose the slow, hard way of Incarnation, love, and death. A conquest from within.
God is not out to “get” you. He’s looking out for what is best for you. We see that in the story of the birth of Jesus. God is for you.
Do The Same For Others
The significance of the Christmas Story isn’t just for us personally. It’s for us to give away. That’s how the Gospel works. It’s not just for us to benefit from. It’s for us to give away.
Jesus came to earth and entered into our story. The Christmas Story shows us that God isn’t scared by our messiness and sin. We should react the same way to those in our life. There are people all around us that are hurting, messy, broken, and full of sin. We should enter into their story. Yeah, it’s messy and difficult and won’t be easy. But that’s exactly what Jesus did for us. And we are called to do the same.
I know what some of you are thinking. How could I do that? I don’t have the answers? I don’t know what to say… Your presence is greater than your ability to solve their problems. Besides Jesus did the heavy lifting already. We just need to be present with others as Jesus is present with us.
The story of the birth of Jesus tells us that he came to reconcile his people back to him. The Christmas story is the opening scene of a God willing to leave heaven in pursuit of His people. As his followers we are called to do the same. Leave what’s comfortable to pursue those far from God.
Closing Thoughts On The Story Of The Birth Of Jesus
The more I read this story and dwell on what God has done the more amazed I am. I find myself continually drawn to the story of the birth of Jesus because in it I see a God who cares for and pursues his people. I hope that’s true for you after reading this story.
I would encourage you take some time to think about what the Christmas story means for your life and faith. Don’t just take it for granted, dwell on it, and let God work in you.
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