The Christmas Story in the Bible
An Angel Visits Mary
26 During Elizabeth's sixth month of pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin. She was engaged to marry a man named Joseph from the family of David. Her name was Mary. 28 The angel came to her and said, "Greetings! The Lord has blessed you and is with you."
29 But Mary was very startled by what the angel said and wondered what this greeting might mean.
30 The angel said to her, "Don't be afraid, Mary; God has shown you his grace. 31 Listen! You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of King David, his ancestor. 33 He will rule over the people of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will never end."
34 Mary said to the angel, "How will this happen since I am a virgin?"
35 The angel said to Mary, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will cover you. For this reason the baby will be holy and will be called the Son of God. 36 Now Elizabeth, your relative, is also pregnant with a son though she is very old. Everyone thought she could not have a baby, but she has been pregnant for six months. 37 God can do anything!"
38 Mary said, "I am the servant of the Lord. Let this happen to me as you say!" Then the angel went away.
Zechariah and Elizabeth
5 During the time Herod ruled Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah who belonged to Abijah's group. Zechariah's wife, Elizabeth, came from the family of Aaron. 6 Zechariah and Elizabeth truly did what God said was good. They did everything the Lord commanded and were without fault in keeping his law. 7 But they had no children, because Elizabeth could not have a baby, and both of them were very old.
8 One day Zechariah was serving as a priest before God, because his group was on duty. 9 According to the custom of the priests, he was chosen by lot to go into the Temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 There were a great many people outside praying at the time the incense was offered. 11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to Zechariah, standing on the right side of the incense table. 12 When he saw the angel, Zechariah was startled and frightened.
13 But the angel said to him, "Zechariah, don't be afraid. God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give birth to a son, and you will name him John. 14 He will bring you joy and gladness, and many people will be happy because of his birth. 15 John will be a great man for the Lord. He will never drink wine or beer, and even from birth, he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. 16 He will help many people of Israel return to the Lord their God. 17 He will go before the Lord in spirit and power like Elijah. He will make peace between parents and their children and will bring those who are not obeying God back to the right way of thinking, to make a people ready for the coming of the Lord."
18 Zechariah said to the angel, "How can I know that what you say is true? I am an old man, and my wife is old, too."
19 The angel answered him, "I am Gabriel. I stand before God, who sent me to talk to you and to tell you this good news. 20 Now, listen! You will not be able to speak until the day these things happen, because you did not believe what I told you. But they will really happen."
21 Outside, the people were still waiting for Zechariah and were surprised that he was staying so long in the Temple. 22 When Zechariah came outside, he could not speak to them, and they knew he had seen a vision in the Temple. He could only make signs to them and remained unable to speak. 23 When his time of service at the Temple was finished, he went home.
24 Later, Zechariah's wife, Elizabeth, became pregnant and did not go out of her house for five months. Elizabeth said, 25 "Look what the Lord has done for me! My people were ashamed of me, but now the Lord has taken away that shame."
Mary Visits Elizabeth
39 Mary got up and went quickly to a town in the hills of Judea. 40 She came to Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the unborn baby inside her jumped, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 She cried out in a loud voice, "God has blessed you more than any other woman, and he has blessed the baby to which you will give birth. 43 Why has this good thing happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44 When I heard your voice, the baby inside me jumped with joy. 45 You are blessed because you believed that what the Lord said to you would really happen."
Mary Praises God
46 Then Mary said, "My soul praises the Lord; 47 my heart rejoices in God my Savior, 48 because he has shown his concern for his humble servant girl. From now on, all people will say that I am blessed, 49 because the Powerful One has done great things for me. His name is holy. 50 God will show his mercy forever and ever to those who worship and serve him. 51 He has done mighty deeds by his power. He has scattered the people who are proud and think great things about themselves. 52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones and raised up the humble. 53 He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with nothing. 54 He has helped his servant, the people of Israel, remembering to show them mercy 55 as he promised to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his children forever." 56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.
The Birth of John
57 When it was time for Elizabeth to give birth, she had a boy. 58 Her neighbors and relatives heard how good the Lord was to her, and they rejoiced with her. 59 When the baby was eight days old, they came to circumcise him. They wanted to name him Zechariah because this was his father’s name, 60 but his mother said, "No! He will be named John."
61 The people said to Elizabeth, "But no one in your family has this name." 62 Then they made signs to his father to find out what he would like to name him. 63 Zechariah asked for a writing tablet and wrote, "His name is John," and everyone was surprised. 64 Immediately Zechariah could talk again, and he began praising God. 65 All their neighbors became alarmed, and in all the mountains of Judea people continued talking about all these things. 66 The people who heard about them wondered, saying, "What will this child be?" because the Lord was with him.
Zechariah Praises God
67 Then Zechariah, John’s father, was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied: 68 "Let us praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to help his people and has given them freedom. 69 He has given us a powerful Savior from the family of God’s servant David. 70 He said that he would do this through his holy prophets who lived long ago: 71 He promised he would save us from our enemies and from the power of all those who hate us. 72 He said he would give mercy to our ancestors and that he would remember his holy promise. 73 God promised Abraham, our father, 74 that he would save us from the power of our enemies so we could serve him without fear, 75 being holy and good before God as long as we live. 76 "Now you, child, will be called a prophet of the Most High God. You will go before the Lord to prepare his way. 77 You will make his people know that they will be saved by having their sins forgiven. 78 With the loving mercy of our God, a new day from heaven will dawn upon us. 79 It will shine on those who live in darkness, in the shadow of death. It will guide us into the path of peace."
80 And so the child grew up and became strong in spirit. John lived in the desert until the time when he came out to preach to Israel.
An Angel Visits Joseph
18 This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. His mother Mary was engaged to marry Joseph, but before they married, she learned she was pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Mary’s husband, Joseph, was a good man, he did not want to disgrace her in public, so he planned to divorce her secretly.
20 While Joseph thought about these things, an angel of the Lord came to him in a dream. The angel said, "Joseph, descendant of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because the baby in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."
22 All this happened to bring about what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 "The virgin will be pregnant. She will have a son, and they will name him Immanuel," which means "God is with us."
24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the Lord’s angel had told him to do. Joseph took Mary as his wife, 25 but he did not have sexual relations with her until she gave birth to the son. And Joseph named him Jesus.
The Birth of Jesus
1 At that time, Augustus Caesar sent an order that all people in the countries under Roman rule must list their names in a register. 2 This was the first registration; it was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to their own towns to be registered.
4 So Joseph left Nazareth, a town in Galilee, and went to the town of Bethlehem in Judea, known as the town of David. Joseph went there because he was from the family of David. 5 Joseph registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was now pregnant. 6 While they were in Bethlehem, the time came for Mary to have the baby, 7 and she gave birth to her first son. Because there were no rooms left in the inn, she wrapped the baby with pieces of cloth and laid him in a feeding trough.
Shepherds Hear About Jesus
8 That night, some shepherds were in the fields nearby watching their sheep. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them. The glory of the Lord was shining around them, and they became very frightened.
10 The angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I am bringing you good news that will be a great joy to all the people. 11 Today your Savior was born in the town of David. He is Christ, the Lord. 12 This is how you will know him: You will find a baby wrapped in pieces of cloth and lying in a feeding box."
13 Then a very large group of angels from heaven joined the first angel, praising God and saying: 14 "Give glory to God in heaven,and on earth let there be peace among the people who please God."
15 When the angels left them and went back to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, "Let’s go to Bethlehem. Let’s see this thing that has happened which the Lord has told us about."
16 So the shepherds went quickly and found Mary and Joseph and the baby, who was lying in a feeding trough. 17 When they had seen him, they told what the angels had said about this child. 18 Everyone was amazed at what the shepherds said to them.
19 But Mary treasured these things and continued to think about them. 20 Then the shepherds went back to their sheep, praising God and thanking him for everything they had seen and heard. It had been just as the angel had told them.
Jesus as a Baby
21 When the baby was eight days old, he was circumcised and was named Jesus, the name given by the angel before the baby began to grow inside Mary.
Jesus is Presented in the Temple
22 When the time came for Mary and Joseph to do what the law of Moses taught about being made pure, they took Jesus to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. 23 (It is written in the law of the Lord: "Every firstborn male shall be given to the Lord.") 24 Mary and Joseph also went to offer a sacrifice, as the law of the Lord says: "You must sacrifice two doves or two young pigeons."
Simeon Sees Jesus
25 In Jerusalem lived a man named Simeon who was a good man and godly. He was waiting for the time when God would take away Israel’s sorrow, and the Holy Spirit was in him. 26 Simeon had been told by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he saw the Christ promised by the Lord. 27 The Spirit led Simeon to the Temple. When Mary and Joseph brought the baby Jesus to the Temple to do what the law said they must do, 28 Simeon took the baby in his arms and thanked God:
29 "Now, Lord, you can let me, your servant, die in peace as you said. 30 With my own eyes I have seen your salvation, 31 which you prepared before all people. 32 It is a light for the non-Jewish people to see and an honor for your people, the Israelites."
33 Jesus’ father and mother were amazed at what Simeon had said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, "God has chosen this child to cause the fall and rise of many in Israel. He will be a sign from God that many people will not accept 35 so that the thoughts of many will be made known. And the things that will happen will make your heart sad, too."
Anna Sees Jesus
36 There was a prophetess, Anna, from the family of Phanuel in the tribe of Asher. Anna was very old. She had once been married for seven years. 37 Then her husband died, and she was a widow for eighty-four years. Anna never left the Temple but worshiped God, going without food and praying day and night. 38 Standing there at that time, she thanked God and spoke about Jesus to all who were waiting for God to free Jerusalem.
Wise Men Come to Visit Jesus
1 Jesus was born in the town of Bethlehem in Judea during the time when Herod was king. When Jesus was born, some wise men from the east came to Jerusalem. 2 They asked, "Where is the baby who was born to be the king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him."
3 When King Herod heard this, he was troubled, as were all the people in Jerusalem. 4 Herod called a meeting of all the leading priests and teachers of the law and asked them where the Christ would be born. 5 They answered, "In the town of Bethlehem in Judea. The prophet wrote about this in the Scriptures:
6 'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are not just an insignificant village in Judah. A ruler will come from you who will be like a shepherd for my people Israel.'"
7 Then Herod had a secret meeting with the wise men and learned from them the exact time they first saw the star. 8 He sent the wise men to Bethlehem, saying, "Look carefully for the child. When you find him, come tell me so I can worship him too."
9 After the wise men heard the king, they left. The star that they had seen in the east went before them until it stopped above the place where the child was. 10 When the wise men saw the star, they were filled with joy. 11 They came to the house where the child was and saw him with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. They opened their gifts and gave him treasures of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 But God warned the wise men in a dream not to go back to Herod, so they returned to their own country by a different way.
The Massacre of the Innocents
Jesus’ Parents Take Him to Egypt
13 After they left, an angel of the Lord came to Joseph in a dream and said, "Get up! Take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt, because Herod is starting to look for the child so he can kill him. Stay in Egypt until I tell you to return." 14 So Joseph got up and left for Egypt during the night with the child and his mother. 15 And Joseph stayed in Egypt until Herod died. This happened to bring about what the Lord had said through the prophet: "I called my son out of Egypt."
Herod Kills the Baby Boys
16 When Herod saw that the wise men had tricked him, he was furious. So he gave an order to kill all the baby boys in Bethlehem and in the surrounding area who were two years old or younger. This was in keeping with the time he learned from the wise men. 17 So what God had said through the prophet Jeremiah came true: 18 "A voice was heard in Ramah of painful crying and deep sadness:Rachel crying for her children.She refused to be comforted,because her children are dead."
The Family Returns
19 After Herod died, an angel of the Lord spoke to Joseph in a dream while he was in Egypt. 20 The angel said, "Get up! Take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, because the people who were trying to kill the child are now dead."
21 So Joseph took the child and his mother and went to Israel. 22 But he heard that Archelaus was now king in Judea since his father Herod had died. So Joseph was afraid to go there. After being warned in a dream, he went to the area of Galilee, 23 to a town called Nazareth, and lived there. And so what God had said through the prophets came true: "He will be called a Nazarene."
What Happened Next?
The Christmas story is one of good news and great joy, but it is also quite a short one. There are 27 books in the New Testament part of the bible, but the story is only told in the books written by Matthew and Luke, two of Jesus' followers and friends. In Matthew, the story is told in two out of the 28 chapters and in Luke, it is told in two chapters out of 24.
Both Matthew and Luke finish their telling of the story with Joseph, Mary and Jesus returning to Nazareth to live. But Christians believe that Christmas was only the beginning of the amazing life of Jesus.
To Christians, one of the most important things about Christmas is what 'Christmas' really means - the Mass of Christ (or Jesus). Mass (or Communion) is a Christian act of worship when Christians remember that Jesus was not only born, as told in the Christmas story, but that, when he became a man, Jesus willingly died to take away all of our wrongdoings and bring us closer to God. Then he came back to life three days later. Christians celebrate this throughout the year, but especially on Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
Nothing has ever been the same since the first Christmas and you can find out more about Jesus' life in the Bible. You can read the Bible online at Bible.com.
Scripture taken from the New Century Version.
Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.
Used by permission. All rights reserved.