We know the Christmas story so well as a result of the Christmas films and Nativity plays we watch but there is so much we don’t know. Despite it being one of the most important stories we have, only two of the 4 gospel writers include Jesus’ birth in their books, Luke and Matthew. As we can see here, even then, neither of them go into a lot of detail about the birth itself:
‘4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.’ – Luke 2:1-7
’18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20 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 what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.’ – Matthew 1:18-25
Behind all the magic of the Christmas story is a historical event that really happened to a young couple, shamed by society for an unbelievable virgin pregnancy, who travelled for miles by donkey whilst heavily pregnant, slept in a stable and gave birth to the Son of God there with the threat of a jealous King trying to kill their special baby boy. Whilst we get caught up in the beautiful, fun, incredible aspects of the birth of Jesus, Mary and Joseph balanced that with all the real, difficult parts of this time in their lives. It is likely Luke didn’t bother including these details because the people of the time would have understood the background context, or maybe because those details distract from the point of the story. That is, the birth of Jesus, God in human form, born to a young girl who lived a normal life with her fiance, a humble carpenter, who took her to Bethlehem, as was required, to be counted in the census, where Mary gives birth and puts her baby in a manger.
This is the reason for the story so why add any frills? Anything beyond these facts is unnecessary distraction to it. Jesus is the reason for the season and let us always remember that. We can enjoy all the decorations, food, presents and other festivities that come in December but let us make sure never to forget what, or rather, who, it’s all about – Jesus.