Story of Christmas

Jesus' birth, known as the nativity, is described in the New Testament of the Bible.

The Gospels of Matthew and Luke give different accounts. It is from them that the nativity story is pieced together.

Both accounts tell us that Jesus was born to a woman called Mary who was engaged to Joseph, a carpenter. The Gospels state that Mary was a virgin when she became pregnant.

In Luke's account Mary was visited by an angel who brought the message that she would give birth to God's son. According to Matthew's account, Joseph was visited by an angel who persuaded him to marry Mary rather than send her away or expose her pregnancy.

Matthew tells us about some wise men who followed a star that led them to Jesus' birthplace and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Luke tells how shepherds were led to Bethlehem by an angel.

According to tradition, Joseph and Mary travelled to Bethlehem shortly before Jesus' birth. Joseph had been ordered to take part in a census in his home town of Bethlehem.

All Jewish people had to be counted so the Roman Emperor could determine how much money to collect from them in tax. Those who had moved away from their family homes, like Joseph, had to return to have their names entered in the Roman records.

Joseph and Mary set off on the long, arduous 90-mile journey from Nazareth along the valley of the River Jordan, past Jerusalem to Bethlehem. Mary travelled on a donkey to conserve her energy for the birth.

But when they arrived in Bethlehem the local inn was already full with people returning for the census. The innkeeper let them stay in the rock cave below his house which was used as a stable for his animals.

It was here, in the stable, that Mary gave birth to her son and laid him in a manger.

(BBC)

The Christmas story is actually just the first chapter of a much longer story, the story of God’s love for the whole world.

This story began two thousand years ago with a dangerous birth in dirty surroundings in a small middle eastern town, but it continues today because the child who was born in Bethlehem, Jesus, grew up and changed the lives of a small group of followers, his disciples.

They realised that Jesus was God’s son, the very embodiment of God’s love, and they took up Jesus’s challenge to share the Good News of God’s love with everyone. Jesus and his disciples started a wonderful chain reaction which enables billions of Christians worldwide to tell the Good News of God’s love today in all sorts of places throughout the world, especially to those who are poor, disabled or imprisoned and who are so often forgotten – as they were in Jesus’s time.

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