Enjoy the Complete Christmas Story of the Birth of Jesus

Relive the Story of Jesus Christ's Birth as Told in the Bible

Stained-glass illustration depicting the nativity scene

Learn Religions / Catherine Song

Step inside the Bible's Christmas story and relive the events surrounding the birth of Jesus. This version is paraphrased from the gospels of Matthew and Luke.

Question for Reflection

After the shepherds visited Mary, Joseph, and Jesus, Mary quietly reflected on their words and the news they brought of their visit from the angel of the Lord. Mary treasured their words and pondered them often in her heart. It must have been beyond her ability to grasp, that sleeping in her arms—her tender newborn baby—was the Savior of the world.

When God speaks to you and shows you his will, do you treasure his words quietly, like Mary, and think about them often in your heart?

Where to Find the Christmas Story in Your Bible

Matthew 1:18-25, 2:1-12; Luke 1:26-38, 2:1-20.

The Angel Gabriel Foretells the Birth of Jesus

Mary, a young teenager, was living in the village of Nazareth and engaged to be married to Joseph, a Jewish carpenter. One day God sent the angel Gabriel 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 was 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 Angel Visits Joseph

Just as the angel had said, while Mary was engaged to Joseph, she miraculously became pregnant. When she told Joseph, he most likely felt disgraced. He knew the child was not his own, and Mary's apparent unfaithfulness would have carried a grave social stigma. Under Jewish law, Joseph not only had the right to divorce Mary, but he could also have had her put to death by stoning.

But Joseph was a good-hearted man. Although his 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.

Then God sent an angel to Joseph in a dream to confirm that Mary's story was true. She had indeed conceived a child by the power of the Holy Spirit. The angel reassured Joseph, telling him to take Mary as his wife, raise the boy as his own son, and name him Jesus because he would be a Savior to his people.

When Joseph woke from his dream, he willingly obeyed God and married Mary 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.

The Birth of Jesus

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 King David, was required to go to Bethlehem to register with Mary.

The city of Bethlehem was a small village about five miles southwest of Jerusalem. While in Bethlehem, the baby Jesus was born. Because of the census, the inn was overcrowded, and Mary gave birth in a crude stable. She wrapped the baby snuggly in strips of cloth and placed him in a manger (an open box or trough used to feed cattle or other livestock).

Shepherds Worship the Savior

That night in a nearby field, an angel of the Lord appeared to shepherds who were tending their flocks of sheep. The radiance of God's glory surrounded the angel as it announced that the Savior of the world had been born in the town of David.

The men were terrified, but the angel reassured them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord" (Luke 2:10-11).

Suddenly a great crowd of heavenly beings appeared with the angel and began singing praises to God: "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests" (Luke 2:14).

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

Jesus' birth took place when Herod was king of Judea. At this time, wise men (Magi) from the east saw a great star. They followed it, knowing the star signified the birth of the king of the Jews.

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.

Lessons and Points of Interest From the Story

  • By the time the wise men visited 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 and in the eyes of her people, these traits would have disqualified her as someone God would want to 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.