Jesus is Born at Bethlehem
- Luke 2:1-20
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. 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.
The name Bethlehem means "House of Bread" possibly because it is a town a few miles south of Jerusalem which nestles in the Judean hills among fertile valleys and rich olive groves.
The gospels of Matthew and Luke both speak of it as the town where Jesus was born. But long before that it was sacred to Jews as the place where Rachel the Matriarch died (Genesis 35). It was here that Ruth had her rendezvous with Boaz (Book of Ruth). From them David was descended; Bethlehem was his home place where he shepherded his flocks until he was called by the prophet Samuel to be King of Israel (1+2 Samuel).
From earliest Christian times Bethlehem has been a place of pilgrimage; in fact the Basilica of the Nativity on Manger Square, built by the Emperor Constantine in 325, is one of the oldest Christian churches. It is built like a fortress and this is not surprising considering the fact that the town has changed hands many times and been ruled by Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Crusaders, Mamelukes and Turks. In our own times violence has again visited Bethlehem.
Place of Birth
The town, whose population today is mainly Christian, has many other churches and monasteries so that the pealing of many bells can be heard in its environs. Down the centuries it has been home to many saints. The Grotto of St. Jerome is pointed out near the Basilica of the Nativity. It was here that he translated the Bible into Latin, the spoken language of the time.
Near the town is the Shepherds’ Field: "In that region there were shepherds living in the fields keeping watch over their flock by night". (Lk. 2:8)
This is the Story of Jesus drawn from the four Evangelists
Gospel passages accompanied by a number of brief commentaries