The Manger of Bethlehem
Matthew i: 18 to
Luke ii: 1 to 39.
after the time when John the Baptist was born,
Joseph, the carpenter of Nazareth, the husband of
Mary, had a dream. In his dream he saw an angel from
the Lord standing beside him. The angel said to him:
"Joseph, I have come to tell you, that Mary, the
young woman whom you are to marry, will have a son,
sent by the Lord God. You shall call his name Jesus,
which means 'salvation,' because he shall save his
people from their sins."
Joseph knew from this that this coming child was to
be the King of Israel, of whom the prophets of the
Old Testament had spoken so many times.
Soon after Joseph and Mary were married in Nazareth,
a command went forth from the emperor, Augustus
Caesar, through all the lands of the Roman empire,
for all the people to go to the cities and towns
from which their families had come, and there to
have their manes written down upon a list, for the
emperor wished a list to be made of the people under
his rule. As both Joseph and Mary had come from the
family of David the king, they went together from
Nazareth to Bethlehem, there to have their names
written upon the list. For you remember that
Bethlehem in Judea, six miles south of Jerusalem,
was the place where David was born, and where his
father's family had lived for many years (see Story
It was a long journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem;
down the mountains to the river Jordan, then
following the Jordan almost to its end, and then
climbing the mountains of Judah to the town of
Bethlehem. When Joseph and Mary came to Bethlehem
they found the city full of people who, like
themselves, had come to have their names enrolled or
written upon the list. The inn or hotel was full,
and there was no room for them; for no one but
themselves knew that this young woman was soon to be
the mother of the Lord of all the earth. The best
that they could do was to go to a stable, where the
cattle were kept. There the little baby was born,
and was laid in a manger, where the cattle were fed.
On that night some shepherds were tending their
sheep in a field near Bethlehem. Suddenly a great
light shone upon them, and they saw an angel of the
Lord standing before them. They were filled with
fear, as they saw how glorious the angel was. But
the angel said to them:
"Be not afraid; for behold I bring you news of great
joy, which shall be to all the people; for there is
born to you this day in Bethlehem, the city of
David, a Saviour who is Christ the Lord, the
anointed king. You may see him there; and may know
him by this sign: He is a new-born baby, lying in a
manger at the inn."
And then they saw that the air around and the sky
above them were filled with angels, praising God and
"Glory to God in the highest. And on earth peace
among men in whom God is well pleased."
While they looked with wonder, and listened the
angels went out of sight as suddenly as they had
come. Then the shepherds said, one to another:
"Let us go at once to Bethlehem, and see this
wonderful thing that has come to pass, and which the
Lord has made known to us."
Then as quickly as they could go to Bethlehem, they
went and found Joseph, the carpenter of Nazareth,
and his young wife Mary, and the little baby lying
in the manger. They told Mary and Joseph and others
also, how they had seen the angels, and what they
had heard about this baby. All who heard their story
wondered at it; but Mary, the mother of the child,
said nothing. She thought over all these things, and
silently kept them in her heart. After their visit,
the shepherds went back to their flocks, praising
God for the good news that he had sent to them.
When the little one was eight days old they gave him
a name; and the name given was "Jesus," a word which
means "salvation;" as the angel had told both Mary
and Joseph that he should be named. So the very name
of this child told what he should do for men; for he
was to bring salvation to the world.
It was the law among the Jews that after the first
child was born in a family, he should be brought to
the Temple; and there an offering should be made for
him to the Lord, to show that this child was the
Lord's. A rich man would offer a lamb, but a poor
man might give a pair of young pigeons for the
sacrifice. On the day when Jesus was forty days old,
Joseph and Mary brought him to the Temple; and as
Joseph the carpenter was not a rich man, they gave
for the child as an offering a pair of young
At that time there was living in Jerusalem a man of
God named Simeon. The Lord had spoken to Simeon, and
had said to him that he should not die until the
Anointed King should come, whom they called "the
Christ," for the word Christ means "anointed." On a
certain day the Spirit of the Lord told Simeon to go
to the Temple. He went, and was there when Joseph
and Mary brought the little child Jesus. The Spirit
of the Lord said to Simeon:
"This little one is the promised Christ."
Then Simeon took the baby in his arms and praised
the Lord and said:
"Now, O Lord, thou mayest let thy servant depart,
According to thy word, in peace.
For my eyes have seen thy salvation,
Which thou hast given before all the peoples,
A light to give light to the nations,
And the glory of thy people Israel."
When Joseph and Mary heard this, they wondered
greatly. Simeon gave to them a blessing in the name
of the Lord; and he said to Mary, "This little one
shall cause many in Israel to fall, and to rise
again. Many shall speak against him; and sorrow like
a sword shall pierce your heart also."
You know how this came to pass afterward, when Mary
saw her son dying on the cross.
While Simeon was speaking, a very old woman came in.
Her name was Anna and God spoke to her as to a
prophet. She stayed almost all the time in the
Temple, worshipping God day and night. She, too, saw
through the Spirit of the Lord, that this little
child was Christ the Lord, and gave thanks to God
for his grace.
Thus early in the life of Jesus God showed to a few
that this little child should become the Saviour of
his people and of the world.