The Birth of Jesus
Matthew 1-2, Luke 1-2
One day about 2,000 years ago an angel named Gabriel appeared to a young Jewish woman named Mary. Gabriel told Mary she would have a son, Jesus, who would be the Son of God! Mary was confused and worried about this sudden news, but she had faith in God and said, "I am the Lord's servant; let it be as you say."
Journey to Bethlehem
Mary and her husband-to-be, Joseph, lived in a town called Nazareth. But they had to travel to the city of Bethlehem to register for a census ordered by the Roman emperor, Caesar Augustus. Both Nazareth and Bethlehem are in the country now called Israel. It is about 65 miles (105 km) from Nazareth to Bethlehem, and the trip probably took them several days.
When Joseph and Mary got to Bethlehem, there was no place for them to stay because the inn was already full. They ended up spending the night in a stable, a place where animals were kept. There was probably fresh hay on the floor that they used for beds.
That night, Jesus was born. There was no crib, so they laid baby Jesus in a manger, a feeding trough for animals. The manger probably had fresh hay in it and made a nice bed for the baby.
Shepherds Visit Jesus
The shepherds hurried into Bethlehem and found Jesus in the manger, just as the angel had told them. After they had seen Jesus, they spread the news, and everyone who heard was in awe.
Wise Men Visit Jesus
A man named Herod was the king of Judea. He called the wise men to a meeting and told them to find the new king so he could go and worship him, too.
The wise men continued on to Bethlehem and followed the star until it was directly above the house where Jesus was. They found Mary and Jesus in the house and knelt down to worship Him. They brought Jesus gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, some of the finest things in the ancient world. Frankincense was burned to make a sweet smell, and myrrh was an expensive perfume.
After visiting Jesus, the wise men had a dream that warned them not to go back to King Herod, so they took a different route home.
Journey to Egypt
King Herod lied when he told the wise men he wanted to worship Jesus. He was afraid this new "king" would replace him as king of Judea. He did not understand that Jesus would grow up to be king of God's spiritual kingdom, not king of Judea.
What Herod really wanted was to find Jesus and kill Him! Herod was furious when he realized the wise men had not come back to tell him where to find Jesus. He sent his soldiers to Bethlehem to kill all the children under two years old, thinking Jesus would certainly be one of the ones killed.
But God had told Joseph in a dream to flee to Egypt. Joseph took Mary and Jesus to live in Egypt where they would be safe from Herod. Joseph, Mary and Jesus stayed in Egypt until Herod had died, and then they returned to Nazareth.
Was Jesus born on Christmas day? We celebrate Jesus' birth on Christmas, but no one really knows what day Jesus was born, or even exactly what year. In 336 A.D., the Western Church, based in Rome, chose December 25 to celebrate as Christmas, meaning "Christ's Mass." The Eastern Church chose January 6. The day was named Epiphany, meaning "appearance." Eventually the period from December 25 to January 6 became known as the Twelve Days of Christmas.
The stories of Jesus' birth link to both the past and the future. The circumstances of Jesus' birth show He fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies of a Messiah (Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23). He was born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2, Matthew 2:5-6). He was called out of Egypt (Hosea 11:1, Matthew 2:15).
Jesus was born in a stable - the most humble of circumstances. Similarly, Jesus showed us how God's favor rests with the poor and downtrodden. The Gentile wise men came to worship Jesus. Later, the Gentiles would make up most of the Christian world. Herod's attempt to kill Jesus foreshadows His crucifixion about 33 years later.