Question: Why do we have the two accounts of Christ’s birth in Matthew and Luke?
Answer: The two accounts are complimentary, not contradictory. Luke gives the birth, and Matthew gives the events which occurred some time later. Our Nativity scenes have caused a lot of confusion by placing so-called “kings” at the stable with the shepherds. In Matthew 2:1,7, the Greek for “wise men” means “oriental astrologer,” not kings. In Matthew 2:11 we are told,
“And when they (wise men) were come into the HOUSE, they saw the YOUNG CHILD with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him (Christ): and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts, gold and frankincense, and myrrh.”
Notice carefully that the wise men found Christ as a young child, not a baby in the manger as recorded in Luke 2:12,16. Matthew 2:13, 20 also refer to Jesus as a "young child."
Herod’s edict in Matthew 2:16 shows us that Christ could have been up to 2 years old when visited by the wise men.
“Then Herod...was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two (2) years old and under...”
The star never appeared to the shepherds, as they were informed by the Angel of the Lord to go to Bethlehem to see the baby, Jesus Christ, Who is the Savior. (Luke 2:8-12).
The star is associated with the wise men. They saw it in the East, where they were from; and knew it was a sign that Christ, the King, had already been born. They went directly to Jerusalem, knowing from the Old Testament prophecies that is where he would rule from. They did not follow the star as it did not appear again until after they arrived at Jerusalem.
Herod urged them to go and search in Bethlehem, as Jesus was probably still there. (Matthew 2:7-9). They did not have to search in Bethlehem for Christ, as the star went and stood over the house where he was. Our Christmas scenes and pageantry distort much of what actually took place as recorded in Matthew and Luke.
We do find that the Gospel of Luke illustrates to us salvation as a free gift. The shepherds brought nothing when they came to see Christ.
“But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him (Jesus Christ) that justifieth the ungodly, his FAITH is counted for righteousness.” - Romans 4:5
The Gospel of Matthew illustrates to us what we should do after we are saved. Not to be saved; but, as our Christian service. Like the wise men, we should bring our gifts, abilities, and talents and present them to the Lord for His use.
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” - Romans 12:1