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Soon after the time when John the Baptist was born, Joseph the carpenter
of Nazareth had a dream. In his dream he saw an angel from the Lord
standing beside him. The angel said to him:

“Joseph, sprung from the line of king David, 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.”

God’s people had had several kings. Some of them had been selfish and
cruel, but Jesus was to be a new kind of king, one who would save, not
destroy men.

Soon after Joseph and Mary were married in Nazareth, a command went
forth from the emperor Augustus Csar 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 names written down upon
a list, for the emperor wished a list to be made of all 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.

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 you 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 singing:

“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

“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; 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.

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