At Christmastime, the accounts of the birth of Jesus in Matthew and Luke are joyously celebrated. The universal appeal of this story derives from many spiritual sources. The hopes and fears of all the years are concentrated together in Christ that night.
As shown in charts 7-3 and 7-4, the New Testament Gospels take different approaches in proclaiming the eternal message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Those differences manifest themselves in the birth narratives of Matthew and Luke.
Matthew’s purpose is to show that Jesus is the promised Messiah and King of Israel, and so his account of the birth of Jesus is filled with regal elements; the male and kingly predominate, with attention focused on Joseph, King Herod the Great, impressive wise men, Chief Priests, government, rulership, gold, swords, intrigue, and other such factors.
Luke’s purpose, on the other hand, is to show that Jesus was the Savior of all mankind, bringing peace on earth. Accordingly, his account is populated with humble elements; the female and commonplace predominate, with attention placed on Mary, youth, piety, subjection, shepherds, salvation, peace, all mankind, and openness before God and the world.
The dynamic tension between these two accounts invites people from all stations in life into this story. The two are not mutually exclusive but reciprocally enhancing. Did Jesus come as a noble king or lowly shepherd? Like King David, in whose town Jesus was born, he was both. The Alpha and the Omega embraces and harmonizes both ends of the spectrum.
Raymond E. Brown, The Birth of the Messiah (New York: Doubleday, 1977).