The Christmas Story in the Bible

The Christmas Story is told in two books of the Bible. These are in the two 'gospel' books of Matthew and Luke (the four gospel books tell about the life of Jesus). There are different parts of the birth and early life of Jesus in these books. So why are they different and why don't they both have the same information?

Although both books tell us about the birth of Jesus, they have other different parts of the story because Matthew and Luke wanted to tell people about different aspects of Jesus and his ministry.

The Christmas Story in Matthew

Matthew wanted to show that Jesus was born to be a leader and King, like the important historical Jewish figures of Moses and King David.

So he tells us about the Magi/Wisemen visiting Jerusalem and them explaining that they've seen new signs in the sky meaning that there's a new King born in Israel. Then the Magi find out that this baby will be born in Bethlehem, which is also known as the City of David.

Matthew also shows a parallel with Moses' life as there's an existing King wanting to kill a vulnerable baby. And there's also a mini Exodus with Joseph, Mary and Jesus escaping into Egypt and then returning to Nazareth.

The Christmas Story in Luke

Luke wanted to show that Jesus is a priest, like the figure of Samuel, so he focuses more on Jesus's religious heritage and those parts of his birth and early life.

We learn from Luke about Zachariah and Elizabeth, Mary's priestly relatives. We hear about the amazing visit of the angels to the shepherds. These shepherds probably sold their sheep for the sacrifices at the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. Luke includes the account of Joseph and Mary taking the newborn Jesus to the Temple to perform their religious duties, where they meet Anna and Simeon.

Luke also includes when Jesus visited the temple at 12 years of age; whereas Matthew goes straight from the story of the Magi to the ministry of John the Baptist, the Baptism of Jesus and the start of his adult ministry.

So both narratives tell us about different aspects of Jesus through different parts of his birth and early life - explaining that Jesus is both a King and a Priest.

If you'd like to know more about this topic, this is an excellent blog post which explains the differences between the accounts of Matthew and Luke in more detail.