My husband didn’t know this story, so today I thought I would retell the story behind Christmas, it’s a story I’ve known for as long as I can remember (I am quite proud to say that when I was eleven years old, I played the character of Mary in my school Christmas performance!). Merry Christmas, everyone…
Over two thousand years ago in the land which we now call Israel, an angel with an important message appeared before a young woman. Mary was from a small town and engaged to marry a talented carpenter, Joseph. Joseph was a good man and Mary loved him very much. In fact, Mary was daydreaming about her upcoming marriage when she got the shock of her life!
“Peace be with you”, said Gabriel as he appeared before Mary, surrounded by the golden aura you usually find around angels. Completely stunned, Mary couldn’t say a word.”Don’t be afraid, I have a message for you. You will become pregnant, give birth to a son, you will name him Jesus and he will be God’s own son”. Mary gathered her courage and replied to the magnificent angel, “how can this be? I am yet to be married”. Gabriel comforted the frightened young woman with a smile, “trust in God, with God nothing is impossible”.
Mary became pregnant, just as Gabriel had foretold. Poor Joseph grew suspicious, how could this be? Joseph was starting to think he should cancel the marriage, when an angel came to him in a dream. “Do not be nervous to take Mary as your wife, she is carrying God’s child and this child with be our saviour”. When Joseph woke, he ran to Mary immediately and apologised for doubting her loyalty and Mary and Joseph were married the following day.
The newlyweds started to prepare for the birth of Jesus, but circumstances changed. This small town belonged to the Roman empire, and the emperor wanted to take a census to make sure every soul living within the Roman world paid their taxes. Joseph was from a town far away, a town called Bethlehem and was required to travel back there for the census. Mary was now heavily pregnant, but they had to go otherwise they would face serious consequences.
When Mary and Joseph finally arrived, Bethlehem was full of other travellers who had also came for the census. Mary struggled to walk, exhausted with swollen ankles, they couldn’t find anywhere to stay. Joseph tried so hard to find somewhere for his wife to stay and be comfortable. Joseph banged on the door of the last inn and pleaded with the inn keeper who shook his head. Seeing Mary in pain, the inn keeper told them that even though his inn was full, they could stay in the stable where he keeps his animals. It wasn’t very comfortable but it gave them shelter for the night.
Several miles away, a group of shepherds were guarding their sleeping sheep, led on their backs and looking up at the dark sky. Without warning the silent night exploded into song, the heavens burst open and a chorus of angels started to praise the Lord Jesus who had just been born in Bethlehem. The shepherds, shocked and amazed, looked up at a star the had never seen before, shining in the skies over Bethlehem.
Mary gave birth to Jesus in a stable, wrapped him in cloth and placed him lovingly in a manger upon the hay. The light from the new star covered Bethlehem in a holy blanket of silver. Wise men in far off lands saw the star, it had been foretold that the birth of a new star would mean a great ruler had just been born, bearing gifts they followed the star to the little baby in a stable.
When the shepherds and wise men arrived in Bethlehem and saw baby Jesus, they were overwhelmed with joy and fell to their knees in worship. They left Bethlehem to spread the news, the son of God has been born on Earth!