The Christmas Story in the Bible

Willow Creek | December 11, 2022

The Christmas story in the Bible can be found in a couple of different places, mainly Matthew 1:18-2:23 and Luke 1:26-2:40. Although the word “Christmas” is never used in scripture, the word itself means “Christ’s Mass,” a day (and season) to remember the birth of Jesus. If you’ve ever wondered “what is the meaning of ‘Christmas’?” It translates as ‘Christ’s Day’.

So, what does the Bible say about Christmas? The Christmas story in the Bible can be found in a couple of different places, but Christmas day (the day Christians remember the birth of Christ) was chosen hundreds of years after the fact. The Bible tells us Jesus was born in a manger in the town of Bethlehem (in approximately 3 B.C.). He was born in a manger (a long trough for livestock to eat out of) because there was no room for them in the inn (Luke 2:7b). The Bible also tells us shepherds and wise men visited Joseph, Mary, and baby Jesus, with the wise men bringing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Matthew 2:11b).

Now, you might be wondering why the Christmas story in the Bible is found in a couple of different places. The first four books of the New Testament in the Bible (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) are known as the gospels. These four books follow the birth, life, and death of Jesus; these books were also written by four different writers. Mark and John jump in later in Jesus’ life, but Matthew and Luke start with Jesus’ birth. Both Matthew and Luke have the same core story, but add details the other gospel might not have; these details help in rounding out the complete Christmas story we have today. 

You can learn more about Christmas by clicking here: What is Christmas?

The Christmas Story as it is in the Bible (New International Version):

Luke 1:26-38

The Birth of Jesus Foretold

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

35 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[a] the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”

38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

Luke 2:1-21

The Birth of Jesus

2 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while[d] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

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. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

21 On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.

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