Estimated reading time: 7 minutes:)
the Christmas story + a devotion to read aloud with the whole fam
The Christmas story, as told by Luke (NRSV). Bold parts are places I’ve marked in my own Bible!
The Birth of Jesus Foretold
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.
And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.”
Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”
Then the angel departed from her.
Mary Visits Elizabeth
In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”
And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has does great things for me, and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and send the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.
The Birth of Jesus
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David.
He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see ~ I am brining to you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and 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 heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.
So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made know what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them.
But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.
The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
I’ve always had a hard time understanding baby Jesus.
The idea of my God as a baby is strange to me.
It’s uncomfortable for me to understand: my king Jesus was once so weak he couldn’t even lift his own head. My king Jesus was once so small I could have held him in my arms and rocked him to sleep. My king Jesus was once so helpless he depended on a flawed, sinful woman to keep him alive.
My king Jesus chose to come into our filthy world in the dark, covered in blood, crying out in infant panic.
My king Jesus didn’t look like a king at all.
And with that one choice, to come to earth like this, he shook the foundations of the world that told us, “no God will look like this.” Jesus changed things.
He is Emmanuel: God with us. But no one expected it would be this messy.
Because for God to draw close to us, he had to draw close to our sinfulness. And even worse, take that sinfulness on his own back. And suffer. And die.
This is the Christmas story: what it cost for God to be with us.
Jesus bore our deepest pain and took it to the cross. Not that he was persuaded by the pattern of this world to partake in our pain, but that he chose to carry it to the grave for us.
So this Christmas, in the joy and celebration, remember what Christmas means: that God came close to you.
And the only thing he wants is for you to come close to him.
I love Mary’s prayer in this passage. “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my savior.” As I was driving today, I wondered why Mary would use the word “magnifies.”
And it hit me: in order to magnify something, you must be close.
A magnifying glass draws near to the thing it magnifies. And so did Mary. And so should we.
Our God came close to us on that first Christmas 2,000 years ago. He loved the world before it tried to love him back. He loved you before you even knew what love was. And He draws close to you now.
Merry Christmas, God loves you and treasures you dearly, and He wants a relationship with you (yes, I’m talking to you;). God bless!