Christmas Day is the Christian holy day that marks the birth of Jesus, the son of God. The birth of Jesus is known as the nativity, and it is described in the New Testament of the Bible.
Mary and Joseph were living in Nazareth. Mary was with child, and Joseph was a carpenter. Joseph had been ordered to take part in a census in his home town of Bethlehem. All Jewish people had to be counted, so that the Roman Emperor could calculate how much money to collect from them in tax. Even people that had moved away from their family homes, like Joseph, had to return to have their names entered in the Roman records. Joseph and Mary set off on the long 90 mile journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, through the valley of the River Jordan, and past Jerusalem. Mary travelled to Bethlehem on a donkey, because she was heavily pregnant. When they arrived in Bethlehem, there was no room in the inn. It was full of people returning for the census. The innkeeper let them stay in the rock cave below his house, which was used as a stable for his animals. It was there that Mary gave birth to Jesus, the son of God. She wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger.
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
Christmas Day was a day of excitement when Jesus was born! Angels of the Lord sang out into the night sky to bring the news of the birth to the shepherds. The shepherds left their flocks, and were the first to visit the newborn baby in Bethlehem:-
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’ When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.’ So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
Shepherds are mentioned throughout the Bible. In the first book of Samuel, David, the youngest son of Jesse, is called from the fields where he was keeping watch over the sheep, to be anointed by Samuel:-
Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Are all your sons here?’ And he said, ‘There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.’ And Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.’ He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The Lord said, ‘Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.’ Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.
1 Samuel 16:11-13
This was a family line that came from Ruth, to Obed, to Jesse, to David and eventually to Jesus. Jesus later said:-
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.
Christmas Day is always a day of giving and receiving. The wise men followed a star to Bethlehem that led them to the birthplace of Jesus, and they gave Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The shepherds gave Him lamb. What can we give Him? We can give Him our heart.
We give presents to the people that we love, as well as receiving presents from those that love us. The biggest present that we receive is from God. He gives us a love that passes all understanding, a love that comes into this World, and a love that is a light in the darkness. It is a love that calls out to us, so that we can share it in Church, and with family and friends every day!