Most people agree that Christmas is a magical time of year. The music, the decorations – not to mention all the baking – it all comes together to create the perfect fairytale celebration. But is that all that Christmas is? A fairytale? Or is it really the celebration of the Savior of the world like Christians believe? Is the story of Christmas in the Bible at all?
Let’s take a few minutes to open up the pages of the Bible and see if we can find Christmas mentioned inside.
CHRISTMAS IN THE BIBLE
Actually, the Bible doesn’t say anything about Christmas. The word Christmas does not appear in scripture anywhere. The word itself is comprised of two separate words – Christ’s mass. It is a term used today by Christians to describe the celebration of Christ’s birth.
So while the word Christmas is not found in the Bible, the reason we celebrate it is.
WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT CHRISTMAS?
The Bible doesn’t have much to say about the Christmas celebrations we typically see today. These celebrations have grown and changed over the years. Some Christians do not believe we should be celebrating Christmas, because they believe the holiday has its origins in pagan traditions.
There is information to support both sides of that argument, and it’s a discussion for another time. But Christians who do celebrate Christmas do so to honor our Savior, and to remember how He came to save us.
You might say that the story we tell today as the three wise men is one of the earliest accounts of anyone celebrating the birth of Christ.
2 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi[a] from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
6 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’[b]”
7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”
9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.Matthew 2:1-12
Some people believe the idea of giving gifts at Christmas came from this very story. It is believed by many that the reason we give gifts is to remind us of the gifts brought to the infant Jesus; as well as the gift He was and is to a sin sick world.
CHRISTMAS STORY IN THE BIBLE
If you are looking for the Christmas story in the Bible, you’ll find it in what is known as the Gospels (which are comprised of the books Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). You can read some of the details surrounding Jesus’ birth in Matthew 1, but the most detailed story of the birth of Christ is found in the book of Luke, in chapters 1 and 2.
Luke 1 gives the account of the angel’s visit to Mary starting in verse 26.
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Luke 1:26-28
It goes on to tell of how the angel explained to Mary that she had been chosen to carry the Son of God; and how she agreed to do so.
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call 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 his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[b] the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”Luke 1:29-37
And while we cannot find accounts of Christmas celebrations in the pages of the Bible, we can find well told accounts of the birth of Jesus.
BIRTH OF JESUS IN THE BIBLE
In Luke chapter 2 the story is laid out for us to learn just how Jesus entered the world.
4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.Luke 2:4-7
These scriptures in Luke are where we get much of the details of the Christmas story that we share in today’s traditions – from Christmas plays to the songs we sing.
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.Luke 2:8-20
It is interesting to think that we often celebrate Christmas by decorating with snowflakes and snowmen, and Jesus was born in Bethlehem, which is on the edge of the Judean desert – with no snow in sight. Not only that, but scholars are pretty sure Jesus wasn’t even born in December.
WHEN WAS JESUS BORN
According to the studies of many theologians and scholars, Jesus was likely born in the month of September. So, why do we celebrate in December? The simple answer is this – it’s the date early Christians agreed upon.
It is not uncommon for people to celebrate a particular event on a chosen day, rather than the actual date. Especially when we cannot possibly know the exact date.
Honestly, the actual date of His birth is not what is truly important. What matters is that He was born into this world for the purpose of becoming the sacrifice that would provide us with eternal salvation.
And that is reason enough to celebrate.
Christmas to me
For me, Christmas brings about feelings of nostalgia as memories of years past come to mind. But even more than that, Christmas for me is a time to reflect on the incredible goodness of the God I’ve come to know.
I started following Jesus when I was just 19 years old. In the thirty-something years since that time I have watched God do miraculous things in my life, some of which are detailed in my book Hope Against Hope. More than that, He has changed me, at the core of who I am. He has made me more like Him – a little bit at a time. Of course I’m still light years away from being like Jesus – but I am far from who I once was.
My heart is so grateful for all He has given me and walked me through. Sometimes during this time of year I like to write out scriptures that point to the Christmas story and revisit them in the morning as I spend time with God.
Here is a list below that you can use.
6 For to us a child is born,Isaiah 9:6-7
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.
7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.Luke 2:7
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.John 3:16
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.John 1:14
15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.Colossians 1:15
18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about[a]: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.Matthew 1:18
30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.Luke 1:30
10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.Luke 2:10
Photo by Valeria Boltneva