Advent Nativity – Week 2: Mary, Joseph, & baby Jesus

This olive wood nativity set was hand carved in Bethlehem. Roger and Mary Bailey purchased it on their first trip to the Holy Land in 1999.

I invite you and your family to join us on our journey to the manger as we prepare our hearts for Christmas.

This week we’re putting up Mary, Joseph, and the donkey. We’ll also be adding the stable and baby Jesus at the end.

Week 2: Mary, Joseph, & baby Jesus

Last week we talked about how God’s people had waited a long time for the Messiah. An angel appeared to Mary to tell her that she would have a baby. This baby would be Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah. Then an angel appeared to Joseph, her fiancee, in a dream. The angel told Joseph not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife because Jesus was a very special baby.

As we pick up the story today, Mary and Joseph are engaged, and they are waiting for Jesus to be born.

Luke 2:1-7 (NIV)

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

A census is a time when the government comes to ask everyone how many people are in their family and how old each person is. How many people are in your family?

This census was a little different because people weren’t supposed to wait for the government officials to come to their house. They had to travel to where their family was originally from. My great-great-grandfather lived in Kentucky. Even though I live in Oklahoma now, I would have had to travel back to Kentucky for this kind of census.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.

I like to fly in planes and take road trips in the car, but Mary and Joseph didn’t have those things. They had to walk! Mary was pregnant and probably tired all the time. It was sweet of Joseph to get a donkey for her to ride so she wouldn’t have to walk the whole way. Even so, it probably took them eight to ten days to walk over 100 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem.

While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

This olive wood nativity set was hand carved in Bethlehem. Roger and Mary Bailey purchased it on their first trip to the Holy Land in 1999.

Wow! Let’s think about this for a moment. Mary is about to have a baby. She’s already tired, but then they walked for over a week to get to Bethlehem. There were hundreds of people traveling at the same time. When Mary and Joseph got to Bethlehem, all the hotels and motels were full. There was no place for them to sleep! Then one innkeeper took pit on them. He didn’t have room in his inn, but he said they could use the barn where the animals lived. At least they wouldn’t have to sleep outside.

This olive wood nativity set was hand carved in Bethlehem. Roger and Mary Bailey purchased it on their first trip to the Holy Land in 1999.

It’s a good thing they had a private place because that’s where Mary had her baby. Jesus didn’t have a crib to sleep in. He had a feed trough used by the animals to eat. In this trough (which is also called a manger), there was only hay to make it a little softer. Hay makes me itch. It can be a little scratchy too. Mary took care of baby Jesus, though, because she wrapped Him in cloths before laying him down to sleep in the manger.

I’m sure glad Mary and Joseph found a place to sleep! Still, it seems a little strange, doesn’t it? Jesus is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. He is the most important person who has ever lived on this earth. You would think He would get a royal welcome and the best of everything. That’s not the way it happened. Jesus got the leftover room in a barn. He didn’t get a nice place to sleep, but a manger full of hay. His poor mommy and daddy were probably exhausted and wondering how they would care for this new little baby.

But the story doesn’t end there. We’ll read more next week.

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