There are two ways to read Scripture. One is to strap on skis and take off over the surface. It’s a perfectly legitimate approach. Get the story and learn what happened, because the insistence is that something did indeed happen. God broke into history and did stuff–as a human being–in places that you can still locate with a GPS, like this well in Nazareth, which has served that town for time out of mind, and where Jesus of Nazareth had to have come as a child, with his Mother because everybody had to come there to get water.
Because something happened in a real place at a particular time, two evangelists–Matthew and Luke, tell the story as we might expect:
Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king. (Mt 2:1).
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be enrolled, each to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be enrolled with Mary his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. (Lk 2:1–7).
Both writers are eager to pin down the birth of Jesus to history, not mythology. He is a human being born as human beings are: in a time and place.
John, instead of strapping on skis, puts on scuba gear and goes down into the depths of the story. So without denying in the slightest the historicity of Jesus (indeed he will bang away at the full humanity of Jesus again and again) takes an entirely different approach to Jesus’ origins, simultaneously emphasizing both his eternal deity and his complete humanity in some of the most profound language ever sp0ken by the human tongue. It is fitting to quote it in full on this, his feast day:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness,† and the darkness has not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came for testimony, to bear witness to the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness to the light.
The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not. He came to his own home, and his own people received him not. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only-begotten Son from the Father. (John bore witness to him, and cried, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, for he was before me.’ ”) And from his fulness have we all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known. (Jn 1:1–18).