The Birth of the Savior: a Story for all Seasons

Birth story: Some of my favorite Bible passages are the ones that detail the events surrounding the Savior’s birth. A teenage peasant girl, responding in faith to the angel Gabriel’s message about the Holy Spirit conceiving the Messiah in her body. Mary’s trip to Elizabeth’s home. The child in Elizabeth’s wombs joyous greeting (Luke 1:26-56).  Joseph’s honorable response to Mary’s pregnancy by another man. Also his response to Gabriel’s message to take Mary as his wife for the baby in her was conceived by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:19-21).  Most of us know the story so well, it seems to need little explanation. It is both majestic and miraculous. The love beaming from every word and action stirs our hearts in a way that few things can.

But there are noteworthy details you may not know. While Mary was a poor peasant, she was also royalty. She was a direct descendant of King David. Just as God promised, the Savior came from David’s line (Luke 3:23-38, Psalm 132:11). Luke gives Mary’s genealogy while Matthew gives Joseph’s.

In Judean culture women married young. Anywhere from 12-14 years old. This makes Mary’s maturity and faith even more inspiring. While men often married early, they could marry later.

In Matthew 1:21 Gabriel tells Joseph what to name the baby. In Luke 1:31 Gabriel gives Mary the same message. Yeshua is “he saves” in the Hebrew. That is what the Messianic Jews call the Savior.

One of my favorite parts of the story concerns the Shepherds. Luke 2:8-14 says, “Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. “And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, 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, goodwill toward men!”

A whole sky full of angels worshiping God is a truly unforgettable experience, which would have been awesome to see. The Shepherds rushed to Bethlehem to worship the baby and give his parents the good news. Then they told everyone they met about what they had seen.  And Mary pondered it all in her heart (Luke 2:15-30). The glad tidings or good news proclaimed to the shepherds are a treasured part of God’s redemptive story.

There is much debate as to when Jesus was born. Was it in the fall on one of the feast days? A plausible sounding idea is that it was in the spring when the sheep were giving birth to their lambs.  It was a special sheepfold used to provide lambs for the temple sacrifices where the angels greeted the shepherds. One thing for sure is it was not in December, which is cold in the Judean foothills and can even have snow on the ground. Also Mary about to give birth did not travel there in the cold winter weather. No one traveled to pay taxes or for any other reason in the winter.

Mary did not give birth in a stable, but being from Bethlehem in the home of a relative.  Joseph was also from Bethlehem.  A midwife and female relatives would have attended the delivery. The men would have gone off to another home. Animals were kept in the dwelling in the winter months for added warmth. They would have laid Jesus in a manger or cattle food dish that was normally used to feed the animals at night. It would have been lined with straw which was used to feed the animals.

The Greek word translated inn should instead be rendered guest room. Every house had a guest room and their relatives already had someone staying in it, so Mary & Joseph would have slept in another part of the home. That is where Mary gave birth, not in a stable.

Luke 2:6 says, “And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.” While they were there indicates that Mary had been there for at least a few days before she gave birth.

For the best teaching on this subject watch this video by Biblical archaeologist John Schoenheit (Part 1 & 2.)

Part 2:

Another favorite passage of mine is the one about the wise men (Matthew 2:1-13). Willing to endure hardship the magi traveled long distances guided by a star to worship the Savior. “And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshiped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh” (verse 11). This passage of Scripture doesn’t tell us how many wisemen there were, but only how many gifts they bought.

Frankincense, and myrrh are fragrant healing oils. Frankincense was used as incense and myrrh was used as an anointing oil. All three items were expensive, used by royalty. These gifts allowed Jesus to escape death (Matthew 2: 13-19).

The short narratives of Simeon and Anna are inspiring. Both of them were old. After waiting so long for the birth of Messiah, once they saw and prophesied over the baby they were ready to die (Luke 2:21-38). Their faithful waiting for the fulfillment of Goff’s word to them is an excellent example for us to follow. The story of Messiah’s birth truly is a story for all seasons. May you enjoy the following poem.


The story of Messiah’s birth,
Is one for all seasons!
To be read anytime,
Enjoyed throughout the year,
Beautifully majestic,
Simple peasants,
Parent the King of kings
Mary royalty,
Of King David’s lineage,
Awesomely miraculous,
Heaven’s messenger angel Gabriel,
Sent to announce Jesus’ birth,
Other angels heralding it,
A sky full of them,
Glorifying God,
Lowly shepherds their audience,
Rush to inform the parents,
Worship the baby,
Wiseman bring expensive gifts,
Travel long distances,
Endure hardship to worship him,
Without Messiah’s birth,
There would be no life,
No death or resurrection,
No salvation,
Eternal life,
Out of love for us,
The Father gave his Son,
To die for our sin.

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