Christmas – The Birth of Jesus

The story of Christmas has been retold and reinterpreted so many times in the past 2000 years that it can be difficult to remember what the Bible actually says. Very little is actually written in the Bible about Jesus’ birth, making it even harder to teach children about Christmas in a simple, meaningful, and cohesive way.

Mary and Joseph and the Birth

Joseph and Mary were an engaged couple living in Nazareth during the reign of King Herod of the Jews. The angel Gabriel appeared to Mary to tell her that she was blessed by God and that, despite being a virgin, she would have a child. This child would be the Son of God and King of Israel. (Luke 1:26-38)

When Joseph found out that Mary was pregnant, he thought she had been unfaithful, but still did not want to disgrace her in public. Therefore, he planned to divorce her quietly. Before Joseph could do this, an angel appeared to him in a dream. The angel told Joseph that Mary had conceived from the Holy Spirit, and that the baby would be the Messiah, or Savior, as had been prophesied. (Matthew 1:18-25)

The Emperor Augustus had decreed that every person needed to register in their own towns. Joseph was descended of David, so he and Mary went to Bethlehem, the city of David, to register. While there, Mary gave birth to Jesus. “Because there was no place for them in the inn,” Mary laid her son in a manger. (Luke 2:1-7)

The Wise Men

At this time, a star heralding Jesus’ birth rose and was seen by three wise men, or magi, from the East. The wise men traveled to Jerusalem to find the child who was to be king of the Jews and honor him. When King Herod heard this, he felt threatened by Jesus. Herod’s advisors told him that Jesus’ birth had been prophesied to occur in Bethlehem. Herod summoned the magi and asked them exactly when they saw the star, then sent them to find Jesus and send word back, saying that he wanted to pay Jesus homage. The three magi followed the star until it led them to the child. The wise men knelt down to Jesus and made offerings of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Then, warned by a dream not to go back to Herod, the wise men left by a different road and returned to their country. (Matthew 2:1-12)

The Shepherds

During this time, there were shepherds with their flocks in the fields near Bethlehem. An angel appeared to them and told them not to be afraid. The angel was there to tell them about the birth of the Messiah and how the shepherds would recognize him. Suddenly, an entire army of angels appeared, praising God and calling for goodwill among people. When the angels returned to heaven, the shepherds decided to find Jesus, Mary and Joseph. After they saw the child, the shepherds shared their story with others, and anyone who heard it was amazed. (Luke 2:8-20)

When King Herod realized that the wise men had tricked him, he was enraged. He ordered that all the children in and around Bethlehem that were two years old or younger were to be killed. However, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream, warning him. Following the angel’s instructions, Joseph took his family and fled to Egypt until it was safe to return to Nazareth. (Matthew 2:13-23)

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