30th December 2020

Our Christmas celebrations combine two biblical stories of the nativity. Over the next couple of days, let us reflect on them individually. What does each contribute to our experience of Christmas?

This is the story of Jesus, according to Matthew (1.1–2.23).

His ancestors were the great leaders of Israel’s history: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob… David, Solomon… traced all the way down to Joseph.

Mary was engaged to Joseph, but before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, Mary became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. An angel appeared to Joseph in a dream saying that this was God’s will, the fulfilment of a prophecy that God would be with his people. The child was to be named Jesus.

Jesus was born in Bethlehem, during the reign of King Herod. Wise men from the East visited Herod in Jerusalem, saying, “we have seen a star heralding the birth of a king and have come to pay homage to him”. The priests directed them to Bethlehem, and they saw the star rest over a house where the child and his mother were living. They presented Jesus with treasures of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Warned in a dream not to return to Jerusalem, they went home by another route.

Herod was furious when he realised the wise men were not going to return to him, and he sent soldiers to kill every male child around Bethlehem who was young enough to become the rival king.

But an angel had warned Joseph in a dream that they must flee from Herod, and the family had departed for a new life in Egypt.

In time, the angel returned to Joseph to tell him it was safe for them to go back to Palestine. They headed north, making their home in Nazareth.

Ian Waddington