Birth of Jesus Christ
“Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).
The birth of Jesus Christ was the most widely anticipated and prophesied event in the history of the world. In this single act, divinity and mortality united in a Savior who would balance the scales of justice, making it possible for the human family to achieve eternal life. Ancient prophets wrote of Christ’s coming and of His atoning mission. In the book of Isaiah, for example, we read, “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). In an earlier chapter, Isaiah foretold Christ’s birth itself, saying, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).
The Old Testament prophet Micah, who prophesied the downfall of Jerusalem, also foretold the Savior’s birth: “Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth . . . to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2). These poetic words in the Old Testament helped set the stage for the Savior’s coming among the Jews—they had watched for centuries for signs that Jehovah, their Redeemer, was at last among them.
When the angel Gabriel appeared in Nazareth to the young virgin Mary, the ancient prophecy began to be fulfilled. The angel told Mary about a miraculous event that would soon occur and about her role in it: that she would conceive God’s only begotten Son, who would fulfill the prophesied role of Messiah and Savior to all humankind. Mary’s response demonstrates her faith and obedience: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38). Mary was a descendant of Abraham and King David, which fulfilled ancient prophecies about Jehovah’s lineage. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints celebrate the virgin birth and believe Mary was an extremely valiant soul to have been chosen by God as Christ’s mother on earth. Mary’s mortality was a crucial component of the role she played as Christ’s mother because it gave Him the ability to die a mortal death—a death that He was able to overcome because of the divinity He received from His Father.
The story of how this remarkable event took place is among the most tender of all the stories about Jesus Christ. Mary was already betrothed (engaged) to Joseph when she learned that she would be Christ’s mother. Her faith in God was matched by Joseph’s honor and faith in her. Joseph married Mary, and together they weathered the cultural storm that their choice would have created in a typical Jewish community of that time. When they were summoned for a taxation census in Bethlehem, Joseph cared for Mary during the difficulties of their journey in her last days of pregnancy.
Two New Testament writers chronicle the events of Christ’s birth. Matthew’s account emphasizes Christ’s glory and kingship, and it recounts the traveling Wise Men of the East who followed a star to worship the Savior. This account also reveals King Herod’s decree to slay the children in Bethlehem as an attempt to eliminate the child who would become the King of the Jews; many of Matthew’s references draw parallels between Moses (the former ruler of the Israelites) and Christ. Luke’s account focuses on Mary’s lineage and her perspective on Christ’s birth. It includes references to the lowly stable that the Savior was born in and the shepherds who visited Him that night.
Both narratives add depth to our understanding of this long-awaited fulfillment of God’s plan, which was established before the foundation of the world. The Book of Mormon also includes prophecies of Christ’s birth and bears witness to His divinity. In 6 BC, the prophet Samuel the Lamanite preached about the signs that would be seen in the Americas that would accompany the birth of Christ (see Helaman 14:2–8), including a new star and lights in the heavens that would illuminate an entire night. The prophet Samuel declared, “Behold, I give unto you a sign; for five years more cometh, and behold, then cometh the Son of God to redeem all those who shall believe on his name” (Helaman 14:2).
Throughout the Old Testament and New Testament of the Bible and also the Book of Mormon is the message that “there is no other way nor means whereby man can be saved, only through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ” (Helaman 5:9). Jesus Christ is our Redeemer, our Advocate with God our Father. God’s prophets and messengers have repeated this truth throughout the ages, heralding the wonderful Messiah who would emerge so humbly in Bethlehem. Jesus Christ came into the world in order to save it. Stepping down from His role as Lord of all, He was born in very lowly circumstances. In a manger Mary laid the Lamb of God, the Savior of the world.