All we know of the Lord's first year on Earth is found in Matthew 2:1-23, and Luke 2:1-40. The birth narrative is recorded in Matthew 2:1 and in Luke 2:1-7. From that point on, the sequence of events is difficult to discern. We know that eight days after He was born, Joseph took Him to the temple to be circumcised (Lk. 2:21). It is not clear whether Mary was with Joseph or not, because the Law required Mary to go through forty days of purification before she could go into the sanctuary (Lev. 12:2-4). However, there is the possibility that she might have been able to be there, because verse two speaks of seven days of purification, verse three talks about the circumcision on the eighth day, and verse four seems to be saying the woman was to then continue her purification for thirty-three more days. It is clear from Luke 2:22 that when her forty days were finished, the family went to the temple to "present Jesus to the Lord."
If one were to take the two Gospels individually, they, for the most part, tell the same story. However, if we take the two side-by-side, some confusion arises. In Matthew, the events following the birth of Jesus are the visit of the wise men, the trip to Egypt, and then the return to Nazareth (Matt. 2:2-23). The wise men and their sojourn in Egypt are not mentioned in Luke. Instead, Luke focuses upon the shepherd's visit (Lk. 2:8-20), the circumcision of Jesus and purification of Mary (Lk. 2:21-24), Simeon and Anna (Lk. 2:25-38), and the family's return trip to Nazareth (Lk. 2:39-40). At first, the two seemed to contradict as to when the family returned home; Matthew seems to be saying it was after a long time, and Luke appears to present the trip as being within less than two months. As with most apparent contradictions, this one might be explained by using the brain God gave us, for both are true.
Notice in Luke's Gospel, he has the shepherds looking for a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger (Lk. 2:12, 16). Matthew, on the other hand, has the wise men finding the young Child residing in a house (Matt. 2:11). The Bible does not say that it was Joseph's home. The solution may be found in reading Luke 2:41. It is possible that a year had passed, and the family had traveled to Jerusalem for the Passover. They could well have been staying with family in Bethlehem during that trip to celebrate the feast. As I mentioned on December 22, 2010, and again on December 26, 2010, Herod's edict to kill all the boys up to the age of two makes sense if the Lord was about a year old.
Today, we have a tough time understanding the Word because our culture is so different from that of the Jews in the first century. Another problem is that there are gaps in the chronology of the Gospels. For instance, from the time the wise men visited Jesus, until the next time we hear about Him, is about eleven years (Lk. 2:41-42). The next gap in the story is eighteen years when Jesus began His public ministry (Lk. 3:23). The Apostle John wrote, "And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen" (Jn. 21:25). Because the Bible is all true, there are no real contradictions.