This is how the birth of Jesus
the Messiah came about.
Mary was legally married to
Joseph, but before they
began living together, she was
found to be pregnant through
the Holy Spirit.
Because Joseph her husband
was a righteous man and did
not want to expose her to
public disgrace, he had in mind
to divorce her quietly.
It Begins with a Wedding…
Nowadays the two parts of a
wedding happen on the same day.
First the couple go to church to
sign the legal documents. Then
they hold a party to celebrate their
…An Incomplete Wedding
In the time of Mary
and Joseph, people
often signed the legal
documents a whole
year before holding the
legally married as soon
as they had signed the
papers. But the usual
custom was not to live
together until the day
of the party.
Mary became pregnant
while she and Joseph were
in their year of waiting.
People didn’t think they
had broken a big rule. But
it was certainly assumed
that they had broken a
One person who thought
Was it REALLY a Virgin Birth?
Joseph knew that he hadn’t broken
But would you just believe it if a
pregnant girl told you that she was
still a virgin? Or would you think she
was lying about something?
Joseph wasn’t stupid. He didn’t
believe Mary’s story!
Don’t believe ANYTHING
uncritically. It’s unscientific!
What was Joseph Thinking?
She’s broken a really BIG rule.
Does she love someone else?
Is she a bad girl?
Has she gone mad?
Will the local fanatics
try to hurt her?
What should I DO about this?
But after he had considered
this, an angel of the Lord
appeared to him in a dream
and said, ‘Joseph son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary
home as your wife, because
her child is from the Holy
Spirit. She will give birth to a
son, and you are to give him
the name Jesus, because he
will save his people from their
When Joseph woke
up, he did what the
angel of the Lord had
He took Mary home
as his wife. But he did
not sleep with her
until she gave birth to
The Good Stepfather
Why do you think Joseph
did things this way?
Why did he
marry Mary at all?
Why did he
not sleep with her?
Augustus issued a decree that
a census should be taken of
the entire Roman world. (This
was the first census that took
place while Quirinus was
governor of Syria.) And
everyone went to his own town
What was the Emperor Thinking?
Who was Augustus?
Who was Quirinus?
A census means ‘counting people’.
Why do you think Augustus
wanted to count people?
Why do you think people had to
return to their original towns?
So Joseph also went up from
the town of Nazareth in
Bethlehem the town of David,
because he belonged to the
house and line of David. He
went there to register with
Mary, who was legally married
to him and was pregnant.
Was there REALLY a Little Donkey?
The Christmas cards usually show
Mary riding on a donkey.
But the Bible doesn’t mention any
donkey, and Joseph was a poor
man. It’s possible that they had to
walk all the way.
The journey was about 70 miles.
While they were there, the
time came for the baby to be
born, and she gave birth to
her firstborn, a son. She
wrapped him in cloths and
placed him in a manger,
because there was no room
for them in the house.
A House with a Stable
The house would have been built
with two storeys. The upper storey
was for the humans, while the
ground floor was the stable for the
Was there REALLY No Room at the Inn?
We are used to the idea that Joseph
wanted to stay at an ‘inn’. But in
fact the Bible just uses the ordinary
word for ‘house’.
In which house was there ‘no
Since Bethlehem was Joseph’s
home town, he probably had
family still living there. It might
have been his own relatives who
lent him their stable!
What were the Neighbours Thinking?
It seems odd that a girl who was
going into labour would be shunted
off to the stable. Couldn’t someone
inside the house have made room
There may have been a social
prejudice at work here. After all, it
was obvious that she had been
pregnant for nine months, but the
family would have known that she
had only been living with Joseph
Salvation in the Feeding Trough
‘Wrapped in cloths’ was the usual
custom. Parents believed that a
child’s limbs would grow crooked
unless the baby was very tightly
‘Laid him in the manger’ was
definitely not usual. Would you lay
your baby in the dog’s dish?
Well, you might if you had
And there were shepherds
living out in the fields nearby,
keeping watch over their
flocks at night.
An angel of the Lord appeared
to them, and the glory of the
Lord shone around them, and
they were terrified.
Was the Angel REALLY Glitter-Pretty?
Why is it so terrifying to see an
I don’t know, because I’ve never
seen one. But whenever an angel
appears to a human, his first words
are always, ‘Fear not!’
How does this match the average
Would You Trust a Shepherd?
Shepherds were the dregs of society.
Because the farmer was too busy to
supervise them, shepherds could often
get away with being lazy. Because they
were poorly paid, they often stole off
Everyone knew you couldn’t trust a
shepherd. It was like trusting a used-car
Why were shepherds the first ones to be
told that the Messiah had arrived?
But the angel said to them,
‘Do not be afraid. I bring you
good news of great joy that
will be for all the people.
Today in the town of David a
Saviour has been born to you;
he is the Messiah and the
Lord. This will be a sign to
you: You will find a baby
wrapped in cloths and lying in
What were the Prophets Thinking?
Why is Bethlehem
the ‘town of David’?
How did the Jews know
that the Messiah
would be born there?
(See Micah 5:2.)
Why did the angel need to
give the shepherds a
Look carefully at the angels’ song.
How are the words different from
what you read on the average
Suddenly a great company of
the heavenly host appeared
with the angel, praising God
‘Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to his
Was it REALLY ‘Peace to All Mankind’?
They did not sing:
‘Peace to all mankind,’
‘Peace to God’s favoured people.’
What difference does this make?
Who are God’s favoured people?
Whose Favourite are YOU?
What does peace mean?
Which ‘war’ was being ended?
Why is the war only over for God’s
favourites and not for everyone?
Why were the shepherds happy?
How can you be sure that you are
one of God’s favourites?
When the angels had left
them and gone into heaven,
the shepherds said to one
Bethlehem and see this thing
that has happened, which the
Lord has told us about.’
So they hurried off and found
Mary and Joseph, and the
baby, who was lying in the
What were the Shepherds Thinking?
The shepherds could have said:
‘Well, that’s nice. One day I’ll
tell my grandchildren that I
saw a real angel. Now hand
over another lentilburger!’
But they didn’t. They hurried off to
visit this new Messiah.
What is your reaction to knowing
that the Messiah has come?
When they had seen him, they spread
the word concerning what had been
told them about this child, and all
who heard it were amazed at what
the shepherds said to them.
But Mary treasured up all these
things and pondered them in her
The shepherds returned, glorifying
and praising God for all the things
they had heard and seen, which were
just as they had been told.
What REALLY Happened Next?
Here’s a part of the story that the
average Nativity play leaves out.
The shepherds ran all over the
Bethlehem region to tell people
about the Messiah.
This part might not make such a
cute school play. Do people really
want the good news to be
broadcast through multicultural
How Far to the Temple?
Well, here’s a part of the story
that’s even less theatrical. It
happened about six weeks later, so
Mary and Joseph were quite likely
out of the stable by now. There’s
no cinema value at all.
Now there was a man in Jerusalem
called Simeon, who was righteous
and devout. He was waiting for the
consolation of Israel, and the Holy
Spirit was upon him. It had been
revealed to him by the Holy Spirit
that he would not die before he
had seen the Lord’s Messiah.
Moved by the Spirit, he went into
the temple courts. When the
parents brought in the child
Simeon took him in his arms and praised
’Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared
in the sight of all people,
light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.’
What was Simeon Thinking?
How do you think Simeon
recognised this baby as the special
We don’t know. But Simeon knew
the Scriptures, so he had had
plenty of clues to expect the
Messiah to be born around now.
Do you know of any Old
Testament prophecies that point to
The child’s father and mother
marvelled at what was said
about him. Then Simeon
blessed them and said to
Mary, his mother:
‘This child is destined to
cause the falling and rising of
many in Israel, and to be a
sign that will be spoken
against, so that the thoughts
of many hearts will be
revealed. And a sword will
pierce your own soul too.’
Why was Jesus REALLY Born?
How did Simeon’s prophecy
Does it spoil the spirit of Christmas
to think too hard about that?
Never mind, let’s return to the
subject of presents and
After Jesus was born in
Bethlehem in Judaea, during
the time of King Herod, Magi
from the east came to
Were there REALLY Three Wise Men?
‘Magi’ were officials in the service of
the King of Persia.
Kings? No, only a King’s servants.
Three of them? The Bible doesn’t tell
us the number. There might have been
a whole convention of them.
Wise men? We know of one very
UNwise thing they were doing.
Phraates IV was King of Persia at the
time Jesus was born.
What were the Magi Thinking?
They took advice from the stars.
That’s right, they calculated their
The Bible warns us again and
again not to waste our time doing
this. But the Magi had never read
the Scriptures. Since they almost
certainly followed the Zoroastrian
religion, they didn’t know any
What on Earth was GOD Thinking?
What do you think of God’s choice
of people who would meet the
First a gang of shepherds (usedcar salesmen).
Then an old man who was about
Then a convention of astrologers
(New Age pagans)?
Was there REALLY a Star?
The Magi had some completely
wrong ideas about how to
understand the universe.
Yet God used these wrong ideas to
lead them to the Messiah.
There is hope for even the most
wrongheaded people. God wants to
give everyone a chance to be
… and asked, ‘Where is the
one who has been born King of
the Jews? We saw His star in
the east and have come to
Was King Herod REALLY Evil?
This was an unwise thing to say to King
Herod. He thought of HIMSELF as
King of the Jews. Any newborn King
ought to be a member of his own
Most of the Jews disliked Herod
because they didn’t think of him as a
‘real’ Jew. His ancestors were
foreigners who had converted to
Judaism. But Herod’s conversion wasn’t
very sincere. He had already murdered
five members of his own family.
Where was the Baby?
There were no newborns in
Herod’s family, but there were
people who wanted to push Herod
off the throne.
How do you think Herod felt about
the fact that these strangers were
looking for a NEW King?
Why had the Magi come looking
for the Prince in a palace?
When King Herod
heard this he was
disturbed, and all
Jerusalem with him.
When he had called
people’s chief priests
and teachers of the
law, he asked them
where the Messiah
was to be born.
‘In Bethlehem in Judea,’ they replied,
‘for this is what the prophet has written:
‘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 be the shepherd
of my people Israel.’
Then Herod called the Magi
secretly and found out from
them the exact time the star
had appeared. He sent them
to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and
make a careful search for the
child. As soon as you find him,
report to me, so that I too
may go and worship him.’
What was King Herod Thinking?
Herod was lying, of course. Did he
really plan to WORSHIP the new
But the Magi didn’t know this.
They were foreigners who hadn’t
checked out Herod’s history.
What’s more, their oh-so-amazing
horoscopes hadn’t warned them
about Herod either.
After they had heard the
king, they went on their way,
and the star they had seen in
the east went ahead of them
until it stopped over the place
where the child was. When
they saw the star, they were
On coming to the house, they
saw the child with his mother
Mary, and they bowed down
and worshipped him. Then
they opened their treasures
and presented him with gifts
of gold and of incense and of
Christmas Means Presents…
Gold is for kings.
Incense is a kind of perfume
that priests burned to the gods.
Myrrh was used in medicine –
it was for someone who was
only too human.
…God’s Present to Us
They may not have not done it
deliberately, but these unwise Magi
had managed to convey some
profound truths after all!
Jesus is fully human.
He is qualified to represent the
Jesus is fully God.
His actions are the acts of God.
Jesus is always King
to His favoured people.
And having been warned in a
dream not to go back to
Herod, they returned to their
country by another route.
When they had gone, an angel
of the Lord appeared to
Joseph in a dream. ‘Get up,’ he
said, ‘take the child and his
mother and escape to Egypt.
Stay there until I tell you, for
Herod is going to search for
the child to kill him.’
God’s Plan Will Triumph
Herod was evil and paranoid, but
he was no match for God’s plans.
The Magi were warned – and so
So he got up, took the child
and his mother during the
night and left for Egypt,
where he stayed until the
death of Herod. And so was
fulfilled what the Lord had
said through the prophet:
Out of Egypt I called my son.
What were the Egyptians Thinking?
Do you think it odd that Joseph
had to take Jesus to Egypt?
Egypt was the land of slavery,
from which God had long ago
rescued His chosen people. Now it
was the place of safety.
All the old ways of looking at the
world had been turned upside
What is the World Thinking this Christmas?
Christmas is a popular festival
because everyone likes the idea of
Baby Jesus being born in a stable.
There are stars, angels, costly gifts,
humble shepherds – sometimes
even a little donkey.
We know we wouldn’t be like
King Herod. We want to wish
Baby Jesus a happy birthday.
What are YOU Thinking?
Easter is a
much less popular festival.
We’d rather forget what we did to
Jesus when He grew up.
The Word became human
and lived among us.
To everyone who
to those who trusted
in His name,
he gave the right
children of God!