Birth of Jesus Christ
Jesus was born in the year 4 B.C., in the city of David, Bethlehem. He was born of the virgin Mary, fathered in her by the Holy Spirit of God. Angels announced to the world in beautiful song, glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among men with whom He is well pleased. One angel, in particular, announced to them, “Behold I bring you good news of great joy, for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord.” Thus the shepherds were invited to pay homage to the new King. Wise men were called from afar by the shining of a glorious star. Later old Simeon and old Anna saw their life’s ambition come to pass as they viewed the new child, the Savior, as God had promised them they would before they died.
Angel Visiting Mary
Mary is an Israelitess, who lives in the town of Nazʹa·reth. God knows that she is a very fine person. That is why he has sent his angel Gaʹbri·el to speak to her. Do you know what Gaʹbri·el has come to tell Mary? Let’s see.‘Good day, you highly favored one,’ Gaʹbri·el says to her. ‘Jehovah is with you.’ Mary has never seen this person before. She is worried because she doesn’t know what he means. But right away Gaʹbri·el calms her fears.
‘Don’t be afraid, Mary,’ he says. ‘Jehovah is very pleased with you. That is why he is going to do a wonderful thing for you. You will soon have a baby. And you are to call him Jesus.’Gaʹbri·el goes on to explain: ‘This child will be great, and he will be called Son of the highest God. Jehovah will make him king, as David was. But Jesus will be a king forever, and his kingdom will never end!’‘How can this all be?’ Mary asks. ‘I am not even married. I have not lived with a man, so how can I have a baby?’
‘God’s power will come upon you,’ Gaʹbri·el answers. ‘So the child will be called God’s Son.’ Then he tells Mary: ‘Remember your relative Elizabeth. People said that she was too old to have children. But soon now she will have a son. So you see, there is nothing that God can’t do.’Right away Mary says: ‘I am Jehovah’s slave girl! May it happen to me just as you have said.’ The angel then leaves.
Mary hurries off to visit Elizabeth. When Elizabeth hears Mary’s voice, the baby inside Elizabeth jumps for joy. Elizabeth is filled with God’s spirit, and she says to Mary: ‘You are specially blessed among women.’ Mary stays with Elizabeth about three months, and then goes back home to Nazʹa·reth.
Mary is about to get married to a man named Joseph. But when Joseph learns that Mary is going to have a baby, he doesn’t think he should marry her. Then God’s angel says to him: ‘Don’t be afraid to take Mary to be your wife. For it is God who has given her a son.’ So Mary and Joseph get married, and they wait for Jesus to be born.
Read: Luke 1:26-56; Matthew 1:18-25.
Elizabeth and Zechariah
Elizabeth was Mary’s cousin and a descendant of the Priest families of Israel and her father was a temple priest. Zechariah was also a temple priest. This may have been because he was married to the daughter of a priest rather than coming from a family of priests. He was thought of as a very holy and kind man, although because he came from a small village some priests though of him as a bit of a ‘village hick’. Both Zechariah and Elizabeth would have been over 60 when this story took place because the age at which the people thought you could not have children after was 60. Not having any children was a big social problem and sometimes seen as a neglect of your religious duty!
Zechariah was not a very important priest in the temple and this was the first time that he had the very important job of sprinkling incense on the altar to burn it. At this place in the Jewish service only Zechariah, as the incense priest, would have been in this part of the temple. His role was to pour the incense onto the golden altar and then bow in worship to God and then leave that part of the temple and say the final prayer of the service. Zechariah poured the incense onto the altar but before he could bow and leave, an angel appeared by the altar. In all the history of the Jewish religion, an angel had never appeared to someone in that part of the temple. The angel was Gabriel, the same angel that had visited Mary.
The name John (Jehochanan or Jochanan) means ‘The Lord is Gracious’. He was to be called this because God had been kind to Elizabeth and Zechariah, giving them a child. Gabriel’s words to Zechariah meant that when John was a man, he would tell the people about Jesus. Zechariah didn’t really believe the angel and asked him to prove this to him, so Gabriel made Zechariah dumb until he believed what the angel had said to him.
The other priests, waiting outside that part of the temple, would have wondered what was happening because Zechariah had taken much longer than he should have done to pour the incense. When he came out, they knew something had happened because he couldn’t speak the final prayer.
Elizabeth did become pregnant as the angel had told Zechariah. She stayed in hiding for the first five months, because people might not have believed that she could become pregnant.
The words that Elizabeth spoke to Mary when they met, show that Elizabeth knew that Mary had a very important baby growing inside her; and that her baby would also have something to do with Mary’s baby. The words that Mary said in reply are known as the ‘Magnificat’ and are a ‘thank you’ and worship prayer to God. When Mary left Elizabeth and Zechariah and went home to Nazareth, Elizabeth would have been about nine months pregnant and Mary would have been about three months pregnant. Mary may have gone home then because she did not want to get involved with the publicity of John’s birth.
So it would not have been long after this that Elizabeth did give birth to John. When it was time to name the baby, it was natural for the family to think that it would be called Zechariah after his father, as this was normally how baby boys were named. But Elizabeth knew that he had to be called John. The family would have doubted this, so they asked the still dumb Zechariah what he should be called. As soon as he wrote down John, as the angel had said, he could speak again.
The prayer that Zechariah said then was the same one that he should have said when he came out of the temple but was unable to say. Now Zechariah could see what the words really meant. Christians believe these words are about Jesus.
Angle Visiting Joseph
When Joseph found out about Mary’s pregnancy, he must not have believed that she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit but that she had been unfaithful to him. Even though they were engaged and not married, to break up the relationship, Joseph would have had to divorce Mary. In fact, adultery in engagement was even punishable by death in some cases! Joseph did not want to disgrace Mary, so he planned to divorce her in private. This only needed two witnesses rather than going through the Jewish courts and no formal grounds needed to be given for the divorce.
But in a dream, an angel appeared to Joseph and told him to trust Mary. The angel also told Joseph that the child should be called Jesus. Having a vision in a dream from God was a sign of God’s approval, so this would have made Joseph pay attention and do what the angel had said!
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 manager probably had fresh hay in it and made a nice bed for the baby.
Jesus Born in a Stable
DO YOU know who this little baby is? Yes, it is Jesus. He has just been born in a stable. A stable is where animals are kept. Mary is playing Jesus in the manger, which is the place that holds the food for donkeys and other animals to eat. But why are Mary and Joseph here with the animals? This is no place for a baby to be born, is it?
No, it isn’t. But this is why they are here: The ruler of Rome, Caesar Au·gusʹtus, made a law that everyone must return to the city where he was born to have his name written in a book. Well, Joseph was born here in Bethʹle·hem. But when he and Mary arrived, there wasn’t a room for them anywhere. So they had to come here with the animals. And on this very day, Mary gave birth to Jesus! But, as you can see, he is all right.
Can you see the shepherds coming to see Jesus? They were in the fields at night taking care of their sheep, and a bright light shone all around them. It was an angel! The shepherds were very much afraid. But the angel said: ‘Don’t be afraid! I have good news for you. Today, in Bethʹle·hem, Christ the Lord was born. He will save the people! You will find him wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’ Suddenly many angels came and began praising God. So right away these shepherds hurried to look for Jesus, and now they have found him.
Men Guided by a Star
CAN you see that bright star one of these men is pointing to? When they left Jerusalem, the star appeared. These men are from the East, and they study the stars. They believe that this new star is leading them to someone important.
When the men got to Jerusalem, they asked: ‘Where is the child who is to be king of the Jews?’ “Jews” is another name for Israelites. ‘We first saw the child’s star when we were in the East,’ the men said, ‘and we have come to worship him.’
When Herod, who is king at Jerusalem, heard about this he got upset. He did not want another king to take his place. So Herod called the chief priests and asked: ‘Where will the promised king be born?’ They answered: ‘The Bible says in Bethʹle·hem.’
So Herod called the men from the East and said: ‘Go make a search for the young child. When you find him, let me know. I want to go and worship him too.’ But, really, Herod wanted to find the child to kill him!
Then the star moves ahead of the men to Bethʹle·hem, and it stops over the place where the child is. When the men go into the house, they find Mary and little Jesus. They bring out gifts and give them to Jesus. But later Jehovah warns the men in a dream not to go back to Herod. So they return to their own country by another road.
When Herod learns that the men from the East have left for home, he gets very angry. So he gives the command for all the boys in Bethʹle·hem two years of age and under to be killed. But Jehovah warns Joseph ahead of time in a dream, and Joseph leaves his family for Egypt. Later, when Joseph learns that Herod has died, he takes Mary and Jesus back home to Nazʹa·reth. This is where Jesus grows up.
Who do you think made that new star to shine? Remember, the men first went to Jerusalem after seeing the star. Satan the Devil wanted to kill God’s Son, and he knew that King Herod of Jerusalem would try to kill him. So Satan is the one who must have made that star shine.
Read: Matthew 2:1-23; Micah 5:2.