"Come on, let's go to Bethlehem! Let's see this wonderful thing that has happened, which the Lord told us about. (Luke 2:15 NLT)
Many times during the Christmas season my three year old granddaughter, Mary Kathryn, said to me, "Grandma, tell me the story of Bethlehem. Tell me the whole story of Bethlehem." She never tired of hearing about an angel appearing to Mary, proclaiming that she was going to have a son and his name was to be Jesus.
So, with the Bible or her picture book that played Christmas carols, I read or 'told' her again and again about Jesus birth in Bethlehem. From a figurine that depicted the town of Bethlehem complete with manger scene, Mary Kathryn loved to see the lights in the buildings and listen to the music as we repeated the story of Bethlehem one more time.
Seemingly absorbing the details, I described to Mary Kathryn how Joseph and Mary made a journey from their home in Nazareth to Bethlehem so Joseph could pay his taxes. Baby Jesus being born in a stable because there was no room for them in the village inn would almost make her cry.
Her eyes would light up when I talked about an angel notifying the shepherds out in the fields about a Savior, Jesus Christ, being born in Bethlehem that night. It pleased her that this was good news of great joy for everyone. The highlight of the story always was the angels from heaven breaking forth in song and praising God.
Although at that young age Mary Kathryn's picture of Jesus was a baby in a manger, I knew it must not be her last. Soon, I would share with her how that tiny helpless baby lying in a manger in Bethlehem grew up to die on the cross for our sins. I would tell her he arose from the grave and ascended into heaven and will return to this earth as King of kings. Mary Kathryn would someday understand that baby Jesus, as she knew Him, lived a remarkable life and desires to be her Lord of Lords too.
But, for that time in the life of my very young granddaughter it was all about Bethlehem! And I loved sharing the story over and over with her. So, come, let's go to Bethlehem and see this wondrous thing that God has done!
At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David's ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, his fiancé, who was obviously pregnant by this time.
And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the village inn.
That night some shepherds were in the fields outside the village, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord's glory surrounded them. They were terribly frightened, but the angel reassured them. "Don't be afraid!" he said. "I bring you good news of great joy for everyone! The Savior — yes, the Messiah, the Lord — has been born tonight in Bethlehem, the city of David! And this is how you will recognize him: You will find a baby lying in a manger, wrapped snugly in strips of cloth!"
Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others — the armies of heaven — praising God:
"Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and peace on earth to all whom God favors."
When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, "Come on, let's go to Bethlehem! Let's see this wonderful thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."
They ran to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. Then the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds' story were astonished, but Mary quietly treasured these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their fields and flocks, glorifying and praising God for what the angels had told them, and because they had seen the child, just as the angel had said. (Luke 2:1-20 NLT)