THE BIRTH OF JESUS

Ubaldo Gandolfi - The Nativity, Bologna, Italy, 1768.


"Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife,
for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit;
she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus,
for he will save his people from their sins."
Gospel of Matthew 1:20-21

And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus
that all the world should be registered.
This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria.
So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea,
unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem;
because he was of the house and lineage of David:
To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
And so it was, that, while they were there,
the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
And she brought forth her firstborn son,
and wrapped him in swaddling clothes,
and laid him in a manger,
because there was no room for them in the inn.
Gospel of Luke 2:1-7

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us,
and we saw His glory, glory as the only begotten Son of the Father,
full of grace and truth.
Gospel of John 1:14


Peter Brueghel the Elder - The Census at Bethlehem, Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Brussels, Belgium, 1566; the lower middle of the painting shows Joseph leading Mary on a donkey with an ox alongside heading to the census office.



The point of origin and central figure of the Christian faith is our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Jesus, son of David, son of Abraham, was called Yeshua in Hebrew, which means "the Lord saves." He was born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem in Judea (Matthew 1:18 - 2:23), in fulfillment of the Messianic prophecies of the Scriptures, among them Genesis 3:15, Psalms 22 and 110, Isaiah 7:14, Daniel 7:13-14 and 9:24-27, and Micah 5:2.

Jesus was born about 4 BC at the end of the reign of Herod, the King of Judea, and the Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus. His legal father Joseph was of the Israelite House of David (Luke 2:4), and his mother Mary was of Levitical descent through her cousin Elizabeth (Luke 1:5). To avoid Herod and the Slaughter of the Innocents, Joseph took flight to Egypt with Mary and the infant Jesus (Matthew 2). Upon their return, the Holy Family settled in Nazareth in Galilee, where Jesus grew and spent his childhood and early adult years. Little is known of his childhood except he was called a Nazarene (Matthew 2:23), and at age 12 he was found in the midst of the teachers in the Temple of Jerusalem (Luke 2:46).

The life of Jesus of Nazareth is best described in the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, while his teachings are presented by all the writers of the New Testament of the Bible.

St. Helena with her son Constantine the Great built the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem over the place where Jesus was born. The site was identified by St. Justin Martyr in 155 AD in Chapter 78 of his Dialogue with Trypho. Construction began in 326 AD and the Church was dedicated in 339. The Church of the Nativity was restored in 530 by the Emperor Justinian of the Byzantine Empire. The Church was redecorated with column paintings and mosaics during the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem in the twelfth century until 1169. Renovations have continued to the present day, as the Shrine is likely the oldest Church in continuous use throughout the world.

The first Christmas Nativity Scene was created by St. Francis of Assisi in December of 1223 in Greccio, Italy. He was visiting there to give the sermon at Midnight Mass and decided to fashion a Nativity scene in a nearby cave. He built a manger with hay, and then brought live people and animals to celebrate the Nativity of our Lord Jesus. Francis loved all creation and considered it good, for Christ himself took on flesh in the Incarnation.

Pope John Paul II offered this beautiful Christmas message in 1991: "Behold, I announce the Midnight. From the depths of Bethlehem’s night, which is the night of all mankind, a gift has been given. ‘The grace of God has appeared, offering salvation to all men’ (Titus 2:11). What is grace? Grace is divine pleasure. It is focused fully on this child who lies in the manger. For this child is the eternal Son, the Son of divine pleasure, the Son of eternal love."

In the opening paragraph of his March 25, 1995 encyclical The Gospel of Life, John Paul II comments: "The source of this great joy is the Birth of the Savior; but Christmas also reveals the full meaning of every human birth, and the joy which accompanies the Birth of the Messiah is thus seen to be the foundation and fulfilment of joy at every child born into the world (John 16:21)."



Bernardo Strozzi of Genoa, Italy - Adoration of the Shepherds, Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, Maryland, 1615.



An Angel Appears to the Shepherds

And in that region there were shepherds out in the field,
keeping watch over their flock by night.
And an angel of the Lord appeared to them,
and the glory of the Lord shone around them,
and they were filled with fear.
And the angel said to them, "Be not afraid;
for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people;
for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
And this will be a sign for you:
you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths 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, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!"
Luke 2:8-14


Bartolome Esteban Murillo of Seville, Spain - Adoration of the Shepherds, Wallace Collection, London, 1668.



The Star of Bethlehem and the Visit of the Maji

When they had heard the king they went their way; and lo, the star which they had seen in the East went before them,
till it came to rest over the place where the child was.
When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy;
and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him.
Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.
And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.
Matthew 2:9-12


The Star of Bethlehem and the Visit of the Maji.



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