Mary and her husband-to-be, Joseph, lived in a town called Nazareth. But they had to travel to the city of Bethlehem to register for a census ordered by the Roman emperor, Caesar Augustus. Both Nazareth and Bethlehem are in the country now called Israel. It is about 65 miles (105 km) from Nazareth to Bethlehem, and the trip probably took them several days.
Jesus was born in a stable and laid to sleep in a manger. The shepherds came to see firsthand the things the angel had told them. That night, some shepherds were in the fields near Bethlehem, keeping watch over their flocks of sheep. An angel appeared to them and gave them the good news that a Savior, the Messiah, had been born. The angel told the shepherds they could find Jesus lying in a manger. Suddenly a whole group of angels appeared saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!"
Wise men from the East came to worship Jesus, bringing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Some time later, wise men, or magi, from eastern countries saw a star in the sky that signaled the birth of a new king. They came to Judea, the region around Jerusalem and Bethlehem, to worship Jesus, the new king. A man named Herod was the king of Judea. He called the wise men to a meeting and told them to find the new king so he could go and worship him, too.
King Herod lied when he told the wise men he wanted to worship Jesus. He was afraid this new "king" would replace him as king of Judea. He did not understand that Jesus would grow up to be king of God's spiritual kingdom, not king of Judea.
Was Jesus born on Christmas day? We celebrate Jesus' birth on Christmas, but no one really knows what day Jesus was born, or even exactly what year. In 336 A.D., the Western Church, based in Rome, chose December 25 to celebrate as Christmas, meaning "Christ's Mass." The Eastern Church chose January 6. The day was named Epiphany, meaning "appearance." Eventually the period from December 25 to January 6 became known as the Twelve Days of Christmas.
The stories of Jesus' birth link to both the past and the future. The circumstances of Jesus' birth show He fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies of a Messiah (Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23). He was born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2, Matthew 2:5-6). He was called out of Egypt (Hosea 11:1, Matthew 2:15).