In those days, a decree went forth from Caesar Augustus that there was to be a Census taken of all the world. Everyone was ordered to go to their own home towns to be registered. So Joseph and Mary journeyed to Bethlehem, the birthplace of David, for Joseph was the descendant of kings. And in Bethlehem, which means “House of Bread”, and which signifies this realm of body and flesh, Mary’s time came and she gave birth to her son. Because there was no room for them in the inn, Mary gave birth to Jesus in a stable carved out of a cave behind the inn, she wrapped him in bands of cloth for swaddling clothes, and cradled him in a manger – a feedbox for animals. Formed at the Beginning in the Heaven above Heaven, Christ was then conceived and born at the level of Earth – the Spirit had become Flesh.
Gabriel then came to the shepherds who were keeping careful watch over their flocks that night. The glory of the Lord shone around him, and at first they were afraid like Moses at the Burning Bush. But Gabriel said, “Fear not.”
And suddenly the shepherds heard the whole choir of heaven singing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
The angels then departed, and the shepherds made haste to find Mary and Joseph and the baby in the manger. When they had ‘seen’, they went and told everyone all they knew concerning the child. While the people wondered at these things, they returned to the manger, to praise and glorify the Lord.
On the eighth day, according to law and custom, the child was circumcised. Joseph and Mary then presented him to God in the Temple in Jerusalem, and as the Law of Moses required, they ransomed their firstborn son with a sacrifice that consisted of a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.
In the Temple were two aged prophets who had long been awaiting the birth of the Christ child – Simeon and Anna. Each blessed the child in turn. Simeon took hold of the babe and prayed, “Now let thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation.”
Simeon then blessed them and prophesied to Mary: “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel [that is, to be a critical factor in the descent and ascent of many souls], and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed – and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
Then Anna came forth. She had been a widow for eighty-four years, and had not left the Temple in all that time, fasting and praying night and day. She came at that instant and gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of the child to all those who were awaiting redemption in Jerusalem.
When all these rites and ceremonies were finished, Joseph and Mary took their infant son and returned home.
Shortly thereafter, from Persia in the East came wise Astrologer Priests who had ‘seen’ in their sacred arts the birth of a Divine King of the Jews. They followed the Light of his Star and came to King Herod in Jerusalem. “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?”, they asked him. “We have come to pay him homage.”
This of course frightened old Herod, as well as frightening the citizens of Jerusalem – for they well knew the violent tendencies of this jealous and brutal Idumean pretender. Herod quickly excused himself and called together his own priests, demanding an explanation. They told him that the Messiah was prophesied to be born in Bethlehem, in Judea. Herod then returned to the wise men from the East, and told them they would find the child in Bethlehem, shrewdly adding, “When you have found him, bring me word so that I, too, may go and worship him.”
The wise men set out, and the Star they had seen rising in the East now led them directly to where the child was. “And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him.” Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts: Gold, the symbol of the royal bloodline, and the symbol of perfection of the soul; Frankincense, an herb that burns with pure white smoke, that was used for the incense in the Tabernacle, a symbol of prayer and sacrifice; and Myrrh, an herb of healing and embalming, used by Moses in the making of holy anointing oil, a symbol of rebirth and resurrection.
The wise men then left the holy family and returned to their own land. But having been warned in a dream to avoid Herod, they followed another road.
After they left, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, and said, “Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and remain there until I bring you word. For Herod is about to search for the child to destroy him.”
When Herod realized he had been tricked by the wise men, he was furious. Once again, an order went out to kill all the little children in and around Bethlehem. But again, as in the story of Moses hidden in the bulrushes, it was too late.