The Virgin Birth (more precisely, the virginal conception) is attested in a number of ways in Matthew and Luke:-
(1) The sharp contrast between the long series of verses that use “begot” and the statement that Joseph was “the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born” (Mt. 1:16) clearly implies that a man was not involved in the procreation of Jesus.
(2) Mt. 1:18 states, “Before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit.”…
Bible commentator William Hendriksen, while expressing some sympathy for artistic representations of biblical scenes, rightly asks if some images of the angels announcing the birth of Jesus to the shepherds (Luke 2:8-20) give the correct impression.
Take, as an example, ‘Good Tidings’ by the artist William Plockhurst.
‘The sheep are huddled together in some kind of pen. Right near them are a few shepherds. Leaning against one of these sturdy men is the faithful shepherd’s dog.…
Ian Paul has commented on the thoughts of David Walker, Bishop of Manchester, about the distinctive needs of occasional church attenders (i.e. those who might attend an annual carol service, but not much else).
In addition to some sensible, if unremarkable, suggestions (stick to traditional words of carols, mention other events coming up in your calendar, and so on) David Walker offers the following advice:-
Ian Paul rightly asks, Why? Why is it really not a good idea to preach a sermon at a carol service? …
At Christmas, fact and fiction, truth and legend, are mixed so thoroughly that even preachers include what they should have left out, and leave out what they should have included.
The late Dick France wrote:-
Steve Matthew has six ‘thou shalt nots’ in connection with preaching from the Bible’s nativity accounts. I summarise:-
Don’t skip the genealogy in Matthew 1. Even a person with a fairly limited knowledge of the Old Testament will find that many of the names fairly leap off the page: men and woman, saints and sinners, Jews and Gentiles.
To the seasonally tongue-tied among us, Donald Whitney suggests that the following could get a meaningful conversation going in almost any Christmas situation. It will be noticed that the later questions in the list would help in moving the conversation to a deeper level:-
What’s the best thing that’s happened to you since last Christmas?
What was your best Christmas ever? Why?
What’s the most meaningful Christmas gift you’ve ever received?
What was the most appreciated Christmas gift you’ve ever given?
With regard to the identity of the ‘star of Bethlehem’ (Luke 2), scholars have canvassed various options.
1. Some regard the entire story as fictional. Ehrman (Jesus, Interrupted) makes no attempt to make sense of the account. He writes:
What does it mean that there is a star guiding the wise men, that this star stops over Jerusalem, and then starts up again, leads them to Bethlehem, and stops again over the very house where Jesus was born?…
‘The first and most indisputable fact about the birth of Jesus is that it occurred out of wedlock. The one option for which there is no evidence is that Jesus was the lawful son of Joseph and Mary. The only choice open to us is between a virgin birth and an illegitimate birth.’ (J. A. T. Robinson, Twelve More New Testament Studies (SCM, 1984), 3–4.)
The virgin birth, or, more accurately, the virgin conception, is attested in many ways in Matthew and Luke.…
How does ‘main-stream’ critical scholarship deal with the biblical narratives of the birth of Jesus?
What follows is based on this article by Helen K. Bond, senior lecturer in New Testament at the University of Aberdeen.
First, Bond notes that only Matthew and Luke record Jesus’ birth, and their stories are quite different. Only Matthew has a star, wise men, King Herod, and the slaughter of infants around Bethlehem. And only Luke has a census, a stable, angels, and shepherds [except that Luke does not have a stable, although he does have a manger!]…