Mary and Joseph slowly trudged down the dusty road that rose and fell through the hills of Ephrath. They were tired, for they had been traveling for days.
They were finally nearing their destination. Before them the white houses of Bethlehem shone in the bright evening sun.
They had not traveled all the way to Bethlehem for fun. They would rather have stayed quietly in Nazareth, for the promised child was to be born soon.
Mary and Joseph had no choice in the matter. The emperor Augustus, the mighty ruler of the entire Roman realm, had ordered a census taken of the whole empire. In Israel it was announced that each person must report to his own city to have his name registered.
No one dared to refuse when the emperor gave a command. Mary and Joseph had to make the long, difficult journey to Bethlehem, the city of David, because they were both descendants of King David.
As descendants of David, they were members of the royal family. Yet they had no money to buy transportation for that long journey.
They entered Bethlehem with a joyful sigh. At last they had arrivedl They would soon find rest.
They passed through streets full of strangers who had come to Bethlehem from all directions. They went straight to the inn where they planned to spend the night. It was a big building that anyone could enter.
The inn was full of people and animals. Everywhere people were talking busily. They could not find a place for quiet rest, because other travelers had filled the inn before them. Vainly, they looked through the inn. There was no place left for the tired young woman and the carpenter. There was no place for the mother of the Lord.
At last they found a quiet corner for themselves-in a barn. The sheep were in the fields. The manger the sheep ate from was empty.
Mary and Joseph went into the barn. In the fading light they made a bed of straw for Mary. They sat down and ate their evening meal. They thanked the Lord for the food and for the humble lodgings they had found.
Soon it was dark. The stars beamed down from the sky. It was night in Bethlehem.
In the still darkness that night, in a hidden corner of the barn, the greatest miracle that could ever happen on earth occurred. The Son of God, who had been promised to mankind for centuries, came into the world as a baby - a small, tender baby. No one was present with Mary and Joseph when the Savior was born.
Mary kissed her child in her holy joy. Joseph caressed the baby with his rough hand. They had only their love to offer the baby. They didn't even have a cradle. Mary wrapped the baby in cloths warmed by her body. Joseph put some hay and straw in the manger, and Mary placed her baby in it.
There lay the Son of God-in a feeding trough for animals. The King of heaven and earth was asleep in a barn. Who would ever have believed it?