left right up down close twitter facebook


Reading the Christmas story - twice

A dog isn’t just for Christmas, it’s for life. The same is true of the story of Jesus’ birth. You can read the Christmas story at any time to find out what it means for your faith

We often miss what’s in the actual Bible texts because it gets wrapped up in all the busy-ness of Christmas and the traditions which go with it.

Why not look at what the Bible actually says?

The events surrounding Jesus’ birth are set out in two of the Gospels – Luke and Matthew.

We’ve become used to a composite version of both stories, putting them both together to form one big “Christmas story”. However, they’re different stories, with different characters and different events.

So let’s try looking at the two versions of the story while distinguishing between them.

Luke Chapter 2: The Birth of Jesus

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 All went to their own towns to be registered. 4 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. 5 He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7 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.

The Shepherds and the Angels

8 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before 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; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah,[a] the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven and on earth peace among those whom he favours!”

15 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.” 16 So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Looking just at this version of the story, what do you spot?
In particular, who are involved in the cast here?
If you were making a nativity play based just on Luke, who would be missing?


  • Theology
  • God
  • Called To Read
  • Christmas
  • Angels
  • Nativity
  • Jesus Birth
  • Mary
  • Joseph
  • Browse the different themes to find courses to help you grow.

    Stay on track

    Go deeper. For inspiration, encouragement and challenge sign up to receive regular updates here.

    Sign up
  • Start with the section on prayer as an introduction to the Rule.

    Stay on track

    Go deeper. For inspiration, encouragement and challenge sign up to receive regular updates here.

    Sign up
  • Subscribe to the site to receive updates, encouragement and new courses.

    Stay on track

    Go deeper. For inspiration, encouragement and challenge sign up to receive regular updates here.

    Sign up