The Real Christmas Story (Revised & Updated)

This post was originally published on December 23, 2008.  I have updated the story a bit and thought is was worth posting again.  So, here goes, and Merry Christmas!

Every year in our family, we recount the Christmas story. Some years we do it with music, other years we read a story book, and one year the kids put on a puppet show complete with music! This year, we’re going back to the source of the story, and the source of all knowledge and wisdom, the Word of God. I thought I would share it with you.  The story itself is fairly long, but God’s story is worth the time!

Biblical passages are all footnoted.  As best I recall, all biblical passage are from the ESV.  Originally, this story was comprised only of passages directly from the Bible.  I have updated it to include some transitional statements between verses.  These are shown in italics.

The story of Christmas started a long long time ago.  In fact, the story of Christmas began with the beginning of time.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. [Genesis:1:1]

What a glorious and awesome God who spoke to world into existence.  He created us and sustains us and is worthy of all of our praise.

Oh sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth!
Sing to the Lord, bless his name;
tell of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous works among all the peoples!
For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
he is to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols,
but the Lord made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty are before him;
strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.

Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength!
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
bring an offering, and come into his courts!
Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness;
tremble before him, all the earth!

Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!
Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved;
he will judge the peoples with equity.”

Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
let the field exult, and everything in it!
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
before the Lord, for he comes,
for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness,
and the peoples in his faithfulness. [Psalm 96]

Most of the time, when we think about Christmas, we think about a baby Jesus born in a manger in Bethlehem.  But, Jesus is God and he has always existed.  He was with God the Father and the Holy Spirit when everything was created.  In fact, he was the one who made everything.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. [John 1:1-5]

So, what is this “Word?”  How do we know that that is Jesus?  Well, because the Bible tells us that this “Word” who was there when everything was created and through whom everything was created came to Earth and lived among his creation.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. [John 1:14]

And, before we get on with our story, we need to remember something very important.  Jesus came into this world on a starry night in Bethlehem as a helpless baby, but that is not the end of the story.  Jesus has some very important names.

On His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.” [Revelation 19:16]

So, back to our story.  God created a perfect world out of nothing, and he created Adam and Eve to live in his world along with all the plants and animals.  He asked Adam and Eve to follow one simple rule for their own good.  But, they could not, and would not, follow that rule.  Adam and Eve did something outside of God’s will.  They sinned.  We all sin.  Not only do we sin, we are born with a sin nature.  That means we are born with a desire to sin.

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned. [Romans 5:12]

This sin separates of from God.  God is Holy. That means that he is perfect.  He never sins.  He never has, and he never will.  Because God never sins, he can’t tolerate sin.  There is a consequence to sin.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. [Romans 6:23]

Death is the consequence of sin.  Death is eternal separation from God.  Eternal means forever.  The worse part is, there is nothing we can do to fix it.  We can’t be good enough or do enough to good things.  There is no way for us to “earn” our way back to God.

But, that’s not the end of the story.  Even though God knew that his creation would rebel against them and he would have to punish them for their sin.  He had a plan.  He had a plan before he ever created the world.  The Old Testament is full of references to this plan like:

Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. [Jeremiah 23:5]

…and…

Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’ [Jeremiah 33:14-16]

…and…

I see him, but not now;
I behold him, but not near:
a star shall come out of Jacob,
and a scepter shall rise out of Israel; [Numbers 24:17a]

The Old Testament also tells us exactly how this plan would happen.

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. [Isaiah 7:14]

It also tells us where he would be born.

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old,
from ancient days.

Therefore he shall give them up until the time
when she who is in labor has given birth;
then the rest of his brothers shall return
to the people of Israel.

And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great
to the ends of the earth.
And he shall be their peace. [Micah 5:2-5]

Yes, God had a plan.  He had a plan to do what we are incapable of doing.  He had a plan to save us from our sins so that we can live forever with him.

The Lord has bared his holy arm
before the eyes of all the nations,
and all the ends of the earth shall see
the salvation of our God. [Isaiah 52:10]

Now that we’ve seen what the Old Testament predicted about the birth of Jesus, let’s look at what actually happened.  There are lots of Christmas stories and carols about the birth of Jesus.  You might be surprised to find out which ones are true and which ones are not.  The New Testament books of Luke and Matthew tell us about the birth of Jesus and the events leading up to that birth.

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. [Luke 1:18a]

God picked a young women to help Him fulfill His plan.  He sent his angel to her to tell her what was about to happen.

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy-the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. [Luke 1:26-38]

But, Mary wasn’t the only one God sent an angel to.  He sent an angel to the man who was going to be the husband of Mary as well.

…her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him. [Matthew 1:19b-25]

When Mary heard the news from the Angel, she went to see her cousin Elizabeth.  Elizabeth was an older woman, but God had blessed her as well by giving her a baby.  She was pregnant when Mary visited.

In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” [Luke 1:39-45]

Mary stayed with Elizabeth for a while.

And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home. [Luke 1:56]

Mary and Joseph lived in Nazareth.  But, wait! God had said in the Old Testament that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem.  Well, God is always in control and He had a plan.

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. [Luke 2:1-7]

So, God came to earth as a little baby.  You would think God would want to announce that to the world – to kings and queens and all kinds of important people.  Instead, he sent his angels to a most unlikely group of people.

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. [Luke 2:8-20]

And, when that baby was eight days old, he was given a name.

And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. [Luke 2:21]

Hundreds of years before Jesus was born, the prophet Isaiah explained what this little baby was sent for.

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shined.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. [Isaiah 9:2,6-7]

A little while after Jesus was born, God sent a message to another group of unlikely people who traveled a long way to come see the Baby King.

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

“‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.'”

Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way. [Matthew 2:1-12]

When God has a plan, he makes sure it happens.  When the baby Jesus was in trouble, God had a plan for that too.

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”[Matthew 2:13-15]

It was a good thing that God sent his son to Egypt.  Herod was furious when he was tricked by the wise men and had a plan of his own to take care of this Baby King.

Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:

“A voice was heard in Ramah,
weeping and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”[Matthew 2:16-18]

But, Herod’s plan didn’t work.  Eventually Herod died and God sent another angel to visit Joseph and tell him to come back home.

But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled: “He shall be called a Nazarene.” [Matthew 2:19-23]

Jesus grew up in Nazareth and God was with him the whole time.

And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him. [Luke 2:39-40]

Jesus gave up everything in Heaven to come here for us.

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. [2 Corinthians 8:9]

God sent his Son because he loves us and we need a Savior.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. [John 3:16-17]

At Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus, but his birth was only the beginning of story.  Jesus did not come just to be born as a baby.  He came to die on the cross for our sins.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. [Philippians 2:5-11]

All God requires of us is that we admit that win sin and that we need a savior.  Then, if we make Jesus the Lord of our lives, we can be reconciled to God and live forever with him.

But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” [Romans 10:8-13]

This is worthy of celebration.

Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion;
shout, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart,
O daughter of Jerusalem!
The Lord has taken away the judgments against you;
he has cleared away your enemies.

The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst;
you shall never again fear evil.
On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:
“Fear not, O Zion;
let not your hands grow weak.

The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing. [Zephaniah 3:14-17]

We should be thankful this Christmas season that Jesus came and lived a perfect life – that he died on the cross for our sins, and that he was raised again on the third day to give us victory over sin and death.

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. [Jude 1:24-25]

3 Comments

  1. Hi,

    Interesting that you include creation in the Christmas story.

    Found this on youversion linked to the psalm about singing new songs.

    Do you have a recording of the music?

  2. Nice article. I was a bit surprised as I was going through the contributions in You Version, using the you version Android app, and saw something from “stocksohio”. Well naturally I had to check it out. Man you are every where. How do you find the time?

    • Ha! I love YouVersion and use it often. I used to submit all the articles I wrote (that were relevant), but I\’m way behind on that. This article was one I actually put together to read to my family on Christmas Eve. I often think about going back and revisiting it. I think there are some verses I would like to add. Maybe this Christmas.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Dad in the Middle – The Year in Review « Dad In The Middle - [...] of the 2009 National ConferencePsalm 119 - The Word of GodI believe...What I believe about sinThe Real Christmas StoryDecember…