Long ago, approximately 2000 years ago, when King Herod ruled Judea (now part of Israel), God sent the angel Gabriel to a young woman who lived in the northern city of Nazareth. The name of the girl was Maria and she was engaged to marry José.
The angel Gabriel told Mary: ‘Peace be with you! God has blessed you and is pleased with you. Maria was very surprised by this and wondered what the angel meant. The angel said to him: ‘Do not be afraid, God has been very kind to you. You will become pregnant with the Holy Spirit and give birth to a baby and you will call him Jesus. He will be the Son of God himself and his kingdom will never end. Mary was very scared but trusted God. ‘Let it happen as God chooses’. She answered the angel. Gabriel also told Maria that her cousin, Elizabeth, who all believed she was too old to have children, would have a baby whom God had chosen to prepare the way for Jesus.
Mary said goodbye to her family and friends and went to visit her cousin Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah. Elizabeth was very happy to see Mary. She knew that Mary had been chosen by God to be the mother of her Son. An angel had already told Zacarias that Elizabeth’s baby would prepare people to receive Jesus. He was going to be called Juan. Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then returned to her home in Nazareth.
Joseph was worried when he discovered that Mary was waiting for a baby before he got married. He wondered if he should postpone the wedding altogether. Then an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and said: ‘Do not be afraid to have Mary as your wife’. The angel explained that Mary had been chosen by God to be the mother of her Son and told Joseph that the baby would be called Jesus, which means “Savior” because it would save people. When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel had told him to do and took Mary as his wife.
At this time, the land where Mary and Joseph lived was part of the Roman Empire. The Roman Emperor Augustus wanted to have a list of all the people in the empire, to make sure that they paid their taxes. He ordered everyone to return to the city where their families originally came from, and enter their names in a register (or census) there. Mary and Joseph traveled a long way (about 70 miles) from Nazareth to Bethlehem, because that’s where Joseph’s family came from. Most people walked, but some lucky people had a donkey to help transport the goods needed for the trip. José and María traveled very slowly because María’s baby was going to be born soon.
When they arrived in Bethlehem they had trouble finding a place to stay. So many people had come to register their names in the census, that all the houses were full and all the beds were occupied in all the rooms. The only place where they could stay was with the animals. People often kept the animals in the house, especially at night, and used them as “central heating.” People normally slept at a higher / higher level with the animals below to give them more heat.
Then, in the place where the animals slept, Mary gave birth to Jesus, the Son of God.
In those days, it was customary to wrap newborn babies tightly in a long cloth called “diaper clothes”. Jesus’ bed was the manger from where the animals ate their hay.
In the hills and fields outside of Bethlehem, the shepherds cared for their sheep during the long night. When the new day began, suddenly an angel appeared before them and the glory of God shone around them. The shepherds were very, very scared, but the angel said: ‘Do not be afraid. I have good news for you and for everyone. Today in Bethlehem a Savior has been born for you. You will find the baby lying in a manger.
The Magi followed the star to Bethlehem (where it was said that the king would be born in ancient writings). It seemed to stop and shine directly on the place where Jesus was.
The Magi entered the house where they now lived and found Jesus with Mary, bowed down and worshiped him. The Magi spread the gifts they had brought before Jesus. The gifts were gold, incense and myrrh. The wise men were warned in a dream, by God, not to return to Herod. So they returned home to their countries in the east in a different way.
When the Magi left, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream. ‘Get up,’ said the angel, ‘take Jesus and Mary and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, because Herod will seek Jesus to kill him. Then Joseph got up, took Jesus and Mary away during the night they went to Egypt, where he stayed until Herod died.
When Herod realized that he had been deceived by the Magi, he was furious and gave orders to kill all children two years old or younger in Bethlehem and the surrounding area. This was to try to kill the new king, since his plan to find the location of the new king of the Magi had failed.
After Herod died, Joseph had another dream in which an angel appeared to him. The angel said: ‘Get up, take Jesus and Mary and return to Israel, because those who tried to kill Jesus are dead.’
Then Joseph got up, took Jesus and Mary and went to Israel. But when he heard that Herod’s son was now king of Judea, he was afraid to go there. So instead they went to Galilee and lived in their ancient city of Nazareth.