Christmas is a time for family and friends to come together to celebrate the story the bible tells us, when Jesus was born in Bethlehem. This was when time has since been measured as AD ‘Anno Domini’ (Latin) ‘In the year of our Lord’. Rome was a powerful ruling force and hence roads, travel and communication helped the story of Jesus move throughout the world quickly. This was no coincidence!
The birth and life of Jesus has always caused division and our story begins with King Herod, the ruler of the day, feeling pretty annoyed that the news of a new King was to be born in Bethlehem, Judea…
Scene 1: Be greeted by Herod, his wife and hangers-on in their summer patio. Hear him complain in his insecurities but don’t stay long. Follow the star of Bethlehem along the trail.
Mary, mother of Jesus, was a young maiden at the time God sent an angel to tell her she would be ‘with child’ and remain a virgin until after Jesus’ birth. Imagine a girl betrothed to a good man finding she would be pregnant with the promised Messiah, God’s own son. The people of lesser faith would be aghast, but not Mary and Joseph, their faith was steadfast and true.
Scene 2: Four maidens around Mary’s age, ‘gossiping’ in the garden will tell you their impressions of the young chosen couple’s news. Abigail, Hannah, Sarah and Jemimah (not their real names…) will then point you on your way to be counted in the census.
The census was, as it is today, the way of recording the population’s growth, place of birth and residence. Those people born in Bethlehem or whose ancestors had been, were required to return to Bethlehem. The Old Testament foretells the importance of this time in Christian history…
“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.”
The Bible also says in Matthew 2:6
“But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.”
Scene 3: The Gates of Bethlehem require you to be counted as you enter past surly Roman soldiers. So make your mark on the tally sheets and enter the village. Beware of the beggar children and surly centurions! Don’t expect a room for the night…its fully booked!
Bethlehem was known as the Town of David, the David of the Old Testament…King David…the boy who slayed Goliath. So it has great biblical significance as it was foretold that Jesus would be born in the line of David. But the town itself wasn’t very substantial nor was it prepared for the great influx of visitors.
Micah 5: 2-5a
“2 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”
3 Therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor bears a son, and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites.
4 He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth.
5 And he will be our peace.
Scene 4: The Inn keeper who had to turn away Joseph and Mary from his boarding house rooms but kindly offered his stable as a bed and birthplace, will tell you his side of the story. You know you are close now….look for the star and the shepherds!
Being a shepherd in those times would have been an important but lowly occupation. The conditions weren’t great, the pay would have been in meat and wool or whatever you could exchange. God however, chose these people, (we don’t know how many) to herald the news of the Messiah’s birth!
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
Scene 5: Some pretty excited shepherds are keen to tell you how they were shocked into action to find the baby Jesus and head off to Bethlehem. Hear their story and visit the enclosure of animals. The lovely family of three await your visit among the animals and would love for you to take photos with them and give Santa Claus a break this Christmas. Remember the true meaning of Christmas!