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The Intriguing Story of the First Christmas, Part One

Mary was a beautiful, young girl who was engaged to Joseph, a carpenter. They lived in a village called Nazareth in northern Israel.

One night, not long before they were to get married, an angel appeared to Mary. This was not only an angel, but a very important angel—the archangel Gabriel. An archangel is an angel officer who is in charge of a large number of other angels, similar to how a top general in the military is in charge of a large group of soldiers. (In Bible times, there are several instances when God had a very important announcement to make, and He would send His archangel Gabriel to deliver His message.)

God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin, Mary, engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David.

Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Congratulations, favored lady! The Lord is with you!”

Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean.1

Who in the world is this? Mary wondered. What is he telling me? It isn’t common to be visited by an angel, so you can imagine Mary’s surprise.

“Don’t be afraid, Mary,” Gabriel told Mary. “God wants to bless you. Soon you will become pregnant, and have a son. You will name Him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of God. And he will reign over Israel forever; and His kingdom will be eternal.”2

The archangel, Gabriel, was referring to spiritual Israel, which consists of those who are part of God’s Kingdom by faith. Jesus is King to those who believe in Him, the Son of God.

Mary asked the angel, “How can this happen, since I’m a virgin?”

“The Holy Ghost will cause the power of God to overshadow you,” the angel replied. “The baby you will have will be called the Son of God.”3

In Matthew, it tells us how God’s angel appeared to Joseph to prepare him for the shocking news that his future wife was already pregnant! It can be quite distressing for a man to find out his fiancée is going to have someone else’s baby. Many men would break off the engagement, and Joseph probably thought of breaking his engagement to Mary. But God gave Joseph a dream in which an angel of the Lord appeared to him.

“Joseph, son of David … don't hesitate to take Mary as your wife! For the child within her has been conceived by the Holy Spirit.

“And she will have a Son, and you shall name him Jesus (meaning 'Savior'), for he will save his people from their sins.”4


When the angel told Mary about how she would become pregnant with the baby Jesus, he delivered some other surprising news to her. “I also bring you good news about your cousin Elizabeth. Even though she is old, and was unable to have children, she too has become pregnant with a son. Nothing is impossible for God.”5

Mary knew that Elizabeth was too old to have a baby. So when the angel told Mary that Elizabeth was expecting a baby, Mary was surprised.  

After hearing this mysterious and awesome news, Mary told the angel: “I am God’s servant; I believe all that you have told me.”6

Soon afterwards Mary went to visit and stay with Elizabeth. When she arrived at Zacharias and Elizabeth’s house, even before she had a chance to tell Elizabeth about what was taking place in her life, something amazing happened.

At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her and she was filled with the Holy Spirit. And she gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, “You are favored by God above all other women, and your child is destined for God's mightiest praise. What an honor this is, that the mother of my Lord should visit me! When you came in and greeted me, the instant I heard your voice, my baby moved in me for joy!”7

It was as if the baby, John, knew the voice of Jesus’ mother.

Elizabeth encouraged Mary by telling her, “You are blessed because you believed God’s message to you.”8

This next passage is a beautiful expression of Mary’s happiness in being the mother of God’s Son, Jesus. It is known as the Magnificat, or the Song of Mary.

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
For He has regarded the lowly state of his maidservant;
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.”9

Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months, and then returned to her own home. When it was time for Elizabeth's baby to be born, she gave birth to a son.

The first book of Luke tells us a bit more about what took place before Elizabeth had her baby. Elizabeth and her husband, Zacharias, had been greatly disappointed and saddened that they had never had any children. One day while Zacharias had been performing his duties as a priest in the temple, an angel of the Lord had appeared to him and told him that his wife was going to have a baby.

Zacharias didn’t believe it would happen, because Elizabeth was too old to have a baby. Because of his disbelief, the angel caused Zacharias to become mute, and told him:

“And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time."10

Of course, once Elizabeth got pregnant, Zacharias believed what the angel had told him, because it had come true.

God had told Zacharias to name the baby “John.” However, in those days, the children were named after the father. When the baby was born Elizabeth said, “He must be named John!” But the people listening said, “That’s not right! Zacharias is his father’s name, and the baby should be named after his father!”

But Zacharias wrote out, “His name is John!”

And at that point, because Zacharias showed he was firm in his faith through his obedience to God in what he named his baby, God opened his mouth, and he was able to speak again.

The Holy Spirit then inspired Zacharias, and he gave a beautiful prophecy that spoke of Jesus, the mighty savior, who God had promised would come to save His people. The prophecy also talked about how his baby, John, would grow up and later prepare the way for the Messiah by telling people how to find salvation through forgiveness of sins. And it spoke of Jesus’ journey on earth to give life, light, and peace to those who were in spiritual darkness.

(To be continued.)

1 Luke 1:26–29 TLB
2 See Luke 1:30–33.
3 See Luke 1:34–35.
4 Matthew 1:20–21 TLB
5 See Luke 1:36–37.
6 See Luke 1:38.
7 Luke 1:42–44 TLB
8 See Luke 1:45.
9 Luke 1:46–48 NKJV
10Luke 1:20 NIV

S&S link: Christian Life and Faith: Biblical and Christian Foundation: Jesus, God’s Son-1b

Adapted by MWS staff, based on writings pupblished by TFI. Illustrations by Jeremy. Colors by Sabine Rich.
Copyright © 2010 by The Family International


PDF: The Intriguing Story of the First Christmas, Part One (Japanese)
RTF: El fascinante relato de la primera Navidad, 1ª parte
DOC: A Fascinante História do Primeiro Natal, 1ª Parte