Lord At Thy Birth
One Advent – Two Narratives
At Christmas, Christian families and friends gather together to celebrate the holiday season and to reflect on the goodness of God. Some may even go as far as to read the Christmas story of the birth of Christ. A favorite passage to read comes from The Gospel of Luke (Luke 1:26-2:20), where the story of Christ was based upon factual events from eyewitnesses. Luke stated that he intended to produce a written account of the story of Christ so that the readers would not have to rely on oral tradition alone. (Luke 1:1-4)
However, when we look closer at the Biblical account of the birth of Christ, we see that there are two distinct narratives in the New Testament. We have Luke’s story, but we also have Matthew’s story. Without understanding that there are two accounts of Jesus’ birth in The Gospels, it is easy to confuse the two stories and miss the main point of each. An example of limited understanding of the separate birth narratives would be the casual observer of Christmas decorations and Manger scenes who believes the “oral tradition” of wise men and shepherds being together at the manger. (Matthew 2:1-2, Luke 2:8-20) Misconceptions like these create a morphed-together Christmas story that runs the risk of missing the greater impact of Christ’s birth. In doing so, the larger picture presented in the two biblical accounts is lost. A quick read through each story reveals their uniquely separate focuses with their different genealogies and Jesus identities. This serves to present the multi-faceted scope of the first advent.
In Matthew’s gospel, the genealogy of Christ declares Him as the fulfillment of the prophesied king coming from the line of David. (Matthew 1:1-17, 2 Sam 7:12-16, Psalm 89:3-4) This sets Jesus apart with great authority being a king at birth. He is also the promised heir of Abraham being the descendant who would fulfill the covenantal promise of God. (Genesis 22:18; Gal 3:16) It is important to know that the heir of Abraham had been long-awaited and Jesus’ arrival as that heir was a massive game-changer. For Matthew to connect Jesus to that reality was to make a profound statement as to who Jesus truly was. In the pericope of Matthew’s birth account, he intends to prove that Jesus is the fulfillment of all of the Old Testament prophesies that proclaimed the coming Messianic King.
Furthermore, Matthew’s gospel declares that Jesus came to the earth to overthrow opposing kingdoms and that there would be a serious clash upon His arrival. (Matthew 2:16-18) This unavoidable clash of kingdoms was necessary to fulfill God’s redemption plan and overcome the destructive nature of sin. Satan and his ranks would be judged, the people of God would be delivered from demonic power and sin broken over us. For Matthew, there was no hope of deliverance until Jesus came.
In contrast, Luke’s gospel reveals a different genealogy from Matthew’s by tracing the ancestry of Jesus all the way back to Adam to prove that Jesus is the Son of God. (Luke 3:23-38) Luke set out to reveal that Jesus was born as one of us so that He could deliver us from the curse of sin. Instead of presenting Him in high kingly origins, Luke presents Jesus as coming into the earth through humanity’s line so that he could save us and bring us peace. (Luke 2:8-14)
What makes Luke’s gospel so wonderful is that God sees our lowly condition as we live through the struggle of overcoming a sinful and difficult world. Instead of highly educated men and kings in Matthew’s story, Luke’s account is full of women being the ones who speak and proclaim the greatness of God. (Luke 1:26-56) Taking that theme further, several older people are the main voices at the beginning and the end of Jesus’ birth story. (Luke 1:5-24, Luke 2:21-38) Instead of rulers, there are shepherds. Instead of Joseph being the main parent figure, Mary meets the angel Gabriel and becomes the clear voice to declare the purposes of God’s son. For Luke, Jesus came to earth through ordinary people of humble origins to rescue the downtrodden who have no recourse outside of God.
What This Means For Us Today
What does this mean for us during this Christmas season? How does remembering the birth of Jesus help us today? The answers to those questions are revealed directly in the two biblical accounts of Jesus’ birth we have been discussing.
When we get up on Christmas morning, we believe by faith that Jesus Christ is the true King according to the Gospel of Matthew as we choose to live in the power of God by being in His kingdom. The kingdom of darkness and depression no longer has power over us through Christ. Sorrow, regret, and the pain of this life are broken through Christ by His coming to earth in the first advent. Because He came as the true and rightful king, He opened the way into the Kingdom of God so that we can be free and walk in His light.
For those of us who are suffering and feel like we are in a low place in life without hope or peace, we can read Luke’s gospel and take comfort that Jesus sees our lowly state. He is here to mend our broken lives and to bring us the same peace the angelic host proclaimed to the shepherds on that wonderful night. (Luke 2:8-20) We learn that our ordinary existence is no different than those in Luke’s story. When we read how God knew those characters intimately and brought them into the revelation of Jesus Christ without regard to their own importance or merit, we can take courage that God will do the same for us today.
Whether we are young or old, wealthy or poor, with our physical and emotional needs met or struggling to survive, the accounts of Jesus’ birth in Matthew and Luke teach us that Jesus has come to confront the spiritual enemies that work against us and to be near to those who are distressed. That is why knowing both biblical accounts is important. These stories are more than a small boy receiving gifts or a baby in a manger. The Gospels are the Word of God that declares the eternal purposes of God.
May Christmas Day, this year, be a blessed time with family and friends. May we take time to remember the true meaning of Christmas when the Son of God came to earth and changed our lives forever.