Centuries ago, in the city of Nazareth, a good and kind young woman named Mary was engaged to Joseph, the local carpenter. Mary was a saintly woman who lived every day in an effort to please God.
One day, God’s archangel Gabriel suddenly appeared before Mary in her home. “You are highly favored by God and are blessed among women” he said.
Mary was troubled and fearful, but the angel comforted her. “Do not be afraid for you have found favor with God. You shall give birth to a baby boy and you shall name him Jesus. He shall be great and his reign shall have no end.”
Mary looked at the angel with astonishment. “But how is this possible?” Mary asked. “I am not yet married.”
The angel quickly answered. “The Holy Spirit will perform a miracle, and the holy child born of this miracle shall be called the Son of God.”
To Mary’s surprise the angel had more exciting news. “Your cousin Elizabeth, whom many thought too old and incapable of having a child, is already in her sixth month with her son. For with God, nothing shall be impossible.”
Mary kneeled before the angel and bowed her head. “I am the Lord’s servant and believe all that has been told to me.”
The angel then disappeared, and Mary was once again alone.
* * * * * *
In those days the government of Rome, ruled by Caesar Augustus, decided to tax everyone in the world. All were required to return to their home town to be counted. So, Joseph left Nazareth with Mary, his betrothed, to be taxed in Bethlehem.
Mary was now great with child, and the long, hot and tiring trip to Bethlehem was a difficult one for her. Just after they arrived, Mary began to feel the pains of birth. Joseph pleaded with the local innkeeper to give them shelter, but no rooms were available. “But you may use the stable,” the innkeeper helpfully suggested. Faced with the imminent birth, Mary and Joseph settled down in the stable surrounded by curious animals.
That night, a blessed miracle happened. Baby Jesus was born! Mary cuddled her newborn son as Joseph looked on with wonder. After a while, they wrapped him in a blanket and placed him in a warm, straw-filled manger for all to honor.
The heavenly angels spread the word of this tiny Savior’s birth to shepherds and kings alike. All of those who heard the story rejoiced that Jesus, the King of Kings and the Son of God had come to cleanse the world of its sins.
Royalty and peasants, believers all, followed the star that shone over Bethlehem to offer gifts and kneel before the new born king.