What really happened when Jesus was born

Hunter McGee

Most of what we know about Jesus’ birth was informed by storybooks, nativity sets, Christmas pageants, and the Peanuts Christmas special.

In our American understanding of what happened in Luke 2, Jesus was laid in a clean manger with animals and presents and bright lights. But what really happened that night? How did one of the most well-known stories become one of the least accurate? 

5 Facts About the Real Christmas Story

1. There were not three kings.

One of the biggest misconceptions surrounding Jesus’ birth is that there were three kings who came to visit baby Jesus. In reality, they weren’t kings at all. There is never a reference to how many men there were, and they didn’t visit Jesus until He was a toddler. 

Matthew 2:1-11 refers to these men as “magi,” meaning they were wise men who studied the stars and were considered sinners. The importance of their inclusion is that they were coming to worship the true king Jesus, showing that Jesus can draw all people to Him and have their lives changed.

2. Jesus was born of a virgin.

Matthew 1:18-23 says Jesus would be born of a virgin, in a miracle that could only be accomplished through the Holy Spirit. Because we all descend from Adam and Eve, we are born sinners. But Jesus was born of a virgin, keeping Him from being born into sin. From the day He was born until the day He died, Jesus never sinned. He was perfect without sin, allowing Him to become a perfect sacrifice for our sin.

How did one of the most well-known stories become one of the least accurate?

3. The shepherds were the first to visit.

Luke 2:8-20 shows us that the shepherds were the first people to visit Jesus after He was born. These were the shepherds who supplied lambs for sacrifices at the temple. These lambs allowed for the temporary forgiveness of sin. God chose these shepherds to be the first to meet Jesus, the lamb of God who would be sacrificed for the permanent forgiveness of sin.

4. Jesus was not born in a barn.

The mention of Jesus being placed in a manger in Luke 2:7 leads us to believe that he was born in a nice, comfortable, clean stable. Despite modern nativity scenes depicting an organized barn, Jesus was likely born in a sheep cave. It would have been cold, dark, and smelly. The significance of Jesus being born in a mess is huge. Jesus is not afraid of a mess. He meets us in our mess because only He can take us out of our mess.

5. Jesus cried.

We sing “Away In A Manger” with no thought to the words, “no crying he makes.” Jesus was perfect, but He was also still human. Jesus experienced everything any baby experiences, including crying. The reason this is so important is that if Jesus had been God only, His sacrifice would have been unconvincing. But Jesus was man and He was God, and therefore He experienced everything we experience so we can trust Him to help us overcome life’s troubles.

Jesus came to confront and conquer every challenge and every temptation we would face. We can trust him with our lives because He was God and fully human. This tiny, helpless baby lived an amazing sinless life and took our punishment so that we can have eternal life.

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