Source: J. F. Kinsey and John McPherson, eds., Echoes Of Glory For The Sunday School. LaFayette, Indiana: The Echo Music Company, 1888.
Children: It is one thousand eight hundred and eighty-seven years tonight, since Jesus was born in a little village, called Bethlehem.
Bethlehem is about six miles south of Jerusalem, in a hilly rocky country, called Judea, which is a part of Palestine, a country in the western part of Asia.
Bethlehem was a very old place, even when Jesus was born, and had about two thousand inhabitants. Although King David was born, and Saul annointed there many years before, it was an obscure town, almost unknown to the outside world.
Joseph and Mary, the mother of Jesus, did not live there, their home was eighty miles of Bethlehem. It was taxpaying time and they went to Bethlehem, where certain officers lived, just as our fathers now go to our court house to pay taxes.
When Joseph and Mary arrived in Bethlehem, so many had reached there before them that the hotels were filled and they could find no place to sleep, and consequently were forced to accept the best shelter they could find, which happened to be in a stable. That stable was not like our barns and stables.
The country about Bethlehem is as I have said, very hilly and rocky, the hills are formed of limestone and contain numerous caves. The people there used many of these caves for stables and even houses. If the walls are rough they can easily chip the soft limestone off and make them smoother. Missionaries tell us that frequently a poor family will live in one half of a cave and keep their cows in the other side. Having the floor higher on the side where the family lives. It was, doubtless, in a place of this kind that Joseph and Mary found shelter, in which Jesus was born and laid in a manger.
In that country there are men who do nothing but raise sheep, they are called shepherds. There are no fences to keep the sheep from wandering away, besides there are wild beasts that would kill them, so the shepherds stay out all night and keep watch. It was while they wee thus watching that an angel appeared and told them of Jesus' birth and where he was.
The prophets had said long years before that Jesus would be born where no one was expecting him, and so it was. The shepherds were greatly excited and pleased, just as you or I should have been at receiving such joyful news, and left their flocks and hurried to where the angel had directed them. They were the first to see the babe and make him presents.
Men who lived east of Jerusalem, and were called wise men, saw a strange star and remembering what the prophets had said they knew it must be the sign of Christ's birth. They hastened to Jerusalem, taking with them many fine presents, as that was a large and wealthy city, had a fine temple, and many priests living there, they supposed he was there. When they arrived at Jerusalem the people were surprised to see them and asked them why they had come. They said to see Jesus who has born to be King of the Jews, that they had seen his star.
They did not understand that Jesus was to be our Heavenly King, but thought he was to rule on earth. The people were greatly excited when they heard this and King Herod became afraid that he would loose his throne, told the men to make haste and find the young child and come and tell him so he too could give it presents.
When the wise men began to look for the child, the star appeared and went and stood over the place where Jesus lay so that they had no trouble finding him. After they had seen Jesus and given Joseph and Mary the presents for him they started to tell Herod, but an angel appeared and warned them not to tell the King as he really meant to kill Jesus. So they went to their homes without telling the king. The angel also told Joseph to take the young child and its mother and flee into Egypt, which he did unknown, to the King.
When Herod learned that the wise men had gone without telling him, he was very angry and sent his officers to search. Of course, they could not find Jesus as he was safe in Egypt. But Herod did not know this and had his soldiers kill every child that was not over two years old. He thought by this means he would be sure to kill Jesus and his throne would be preserved to himself and his children.
Joseph lived in Egypt until King Herod died, when an angel came and told Joseph to return to Palestine; where he lived until Jesus grew to manhood and began preaching.
It was a great many years after Christ's birth before people began to celebrate his birthday. The Romans being the first to do so. From Rome the custom spread to all the world.
Over the place where Jesus was born there now stands a church 120 feet long and 110 feet wide which was erected 327 years after Christ's birth.
A marble slab at one end of the church is over the spot where he was born and a marble trough near by is where the original stood.
The town of Bethlehem has today about 3,000 inhabitants many of whom make their living by carving crosses and images to sell to Christian travelers, many thousands of whom visit there every year.
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