Shout Hallelujah; Santa Claus is coming to town! The little drummer boy is deckin’ the halls to get everyone ready to rock around the Christmas tree! As you prepare for this holiday season, remember the reason. Many celebrate Christmas for the giving and receiving of gifts, enjoying the lights, or sippin’ hot cocoa and munching on gingerbread cookies. However, as Christians, this time of the year means much more. We are preparing the way for the birth of baby Jesus! We all know the story, but do you know the four different versions of the story? The writers of the Gospel, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John each take a unique approach to tell the Christmas story. Join me as we dive deeper into what each author has to offer.
While we often think these four men are the only ones to tell the story, the coming of Christ is actually mentioned much earlier. Galatians 4:4-5 reads, “...when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might obtain adoption as children.” Or even in Isaiah chapter 7, verse 14, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” While the birth of Jesus is mentioned in the old testament, the Gospel really brings the full story to light.
Matthew: This is the first account of the birth of Jesus in the Bible. First, we read the genealogy of Jesus’ descendants. Then, Joseph accepts Jesus as his son. Joseph is a key player in Matthews’s account. He could have been stoned or shamed by his community by admitting to impregnate Mary before marriage. Chapter 2, verses 13 and 14 show us how quick Joesph is to obey God. It says, “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.’ So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left to Egypt…” Without hesitation, Joseph obeyed. What would your life look like if you obeyed God without hesitation? Aside from Joseph, Matthew focuses on the wise men (Matthew 2:1-12) and the escape to Egypt (Matthew 2:13-23).
Mark: This second account of Jesus’ story is surprising in the fact that Jesus’s birth story is not described. The first time readers meet Jesus is when John the Baptist baptizes him. The first eight verses are the story of John the Baptist preparing the way for Jesus. Why would Mark leave out the details of the birth story? One reason might be to highlight his works. While the birth story is incredible, what Jesus did after he was born is more important for the salvation of the world. Mary and Joseph were not wealthy. For first-century Romans, class and status were a priority. Not knowing where and how Jesus came into the world was crucial for them to open their eyes to the idea of following Christ.
Luke: This is the third account of Jesus’s birth and the longest. Luke focuses on the marginalized groups of this time such as women and the poor. It starts with an introduction with statements of the investigation done before recording the events that took place to ensure it’s legitimacy. Then Luke gets down to the details. Including the foretelling of John the Baptist, the angel Gabriel appearing to Mary, Joseph leading Mary on a donkey to Bethlehem, no room in the inn, all leading up to finally a baby lying in a manger.
John: Much like Mark, the details of Jesus’s birth story are not revealed. Rather, John describes the divine nature of Christ and his mission while on earth. While Matthew, Mark, and Luke see Jesus’s life starting at birth, John looks at the big picture in terms of eternity. John 1:1-2 reads, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.” In fact, John’s Gospel does not mention the name of Jesus until verse 29 of the first chapter when he was already an adult. It could be to symbolize having faith without sight. When reading John’s account of Jesus’ birth or in his terms, “the word becoming flesh,” we don’t see the name of Jesus, but we know who it is that John is talking about: our savior Jesus!
So there you have it, four different accounts of how our Lord came to physical existence. No matter which way the story is told, it is a miracle! Merry Christmas!