At the time of the reign in Judea of Herod, who was under
the power of Rome, the Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus sent out a decree that all the world should have been taxed. Every Jew had to
register in his own city where his ancestors lived.
Joseph and the Virgin Mary were descended from the
house and lineage of David and therefore went out of Nazareth into the city of David, Bethlehem. Arriving in Bethlehem, they were not able to find room in the inn and stayed
outside the city, in a cave, where shepherds drove their cattle in bad weather.
In this cave that night the Holy Virgin Mary brought forth Her Child — the Son
of God, Christ, the Saviour of the world. She wrapped the Divine Child in
swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger where they put feed for the cattle.
The shepherds in Bethlehem were the first to find out about the birth of the Saviour.
On this night they were watching their flocks in the field. Suddenly an angel
of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord was shown round about
them. The shepherds were sore afraid.
The angel said to them, "Fear not. I bring
you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For
unto you is born this day in the city of David (Bethlehem) a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you. You shall find the Babe
wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger."
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, good will among men."
When the angels were gone away from them, the
shepherds said one to another, "Let us now go even unto Bethlehem and see
this thing, which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known to us."
They came with haste and found Mary, and Joseph,
and the Babe lying in a manger. They worshipped the Child and told how they had
seen and listened to the angel. Mary kept all these things in her heart.
Then, the shepherds returned to their flocks,
glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen.
Eight days after the birth of the Saviour, His
Mother with Joseph, according to the law, gave Him the name Jesus, which had
been given by God through the angel.
the Gospel of Luke, 2:1-21.
Adoration of the Magi.
While Joseph and the Holy Mother of God and the
Child Jesus were still in Bethlehem, Magi (wise men) from distant countries in the East
(Persia or Babylonia) came to Jerusalem.
The Magi were scholarly people who observed and
studied the stars. At that time, people believed that upon the birth of a great
person there would appear in the heavens a new star. Many pagans, taught by the
Jews in dispersion, knew of the coming into the world of the Messiah, the Great
King of Israel, Who was to subdue the whole world. Therefore, they waited
knowing that on His birth there would appear a new star in the heavens. The
wise men were pious people, and the Lord by His mercy gave them such a sign: in
heaven there appeared a new, extraordinary star. Having seen this star, the
wise men immediately understood that the awaited King had been born. They
prepared for the journey and went to the capital of the Jewish kingdom, Jerusalem, to find out where this King was born and to worship Him.
In Jerusalem, the wise men began to ask, "Where is He that is born
King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the east and are come to worship
When King Herod heard this he was troubled. He was
in everything a cruel and suspicious man. Because of one of his suspicions, he
sent his own children to execution. Now, he was especially terrified, afraid
that they would seize his power and hand over his royal throne to the newborn
King. And all the people of Jerusalem were
agitated upon hearing such news.
Herod gathered all the chief priests and scribes
of the people, men learned in the books of the Holy Scripture, and demanded of
them where Christ should be born.
They answered, "In Bethlehem of Judea: for
thus it is written by the Prophet Micah."
Then, Herod, when he had secretly called the wise
men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and search diligently for the young
Child; and when ye have found Him, bring me word again that I may come and
worship Him also." In so doing, Herod thought to kill the new born King.
When they had heard the King, the wise men
departed; and lo, the star which they saw in the east went before them till it
came and stood over where the young Child was.
At that time, the holy elder Joseph and the
Most-holy Virgin Mary with the Child lived in the city, in the house where they
moved from the cave as the people after the census had begun to disperse.
The wise men came into the house and saw the young
child Jesus with His mother. They fell down, and worshipped Him, and presented Him
gifts: gold, frankincense (incense), and myrrh (expensive
By their gifts, the wise men signified that the
newborn child Jesus is King, and God, and man. Gold they brought to Him as King
(as a tribute, or tax); incense, as God (as incense is used during worship
services); and myrrh, as a man who must die (because the deceased were then
anointed and rubbed with perfumed oil).
Afterward the Wise Men wanted to return to Jerusalem to Herod, but they were warned by God in a dream that they
should have not returned to Herod. Then, they departed into their own country
Tradition preserves the names of the wise men, who
then became Christians: Melchior, Gasper and Balthasar.
Their memory is celebrated by the Church on the day of the Nativity of Christ.
The Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ is
celebrated in the Orthodox Church on the 25th of December
(January 7 NS). For this great feast we prepare ourselves by keeping the fast,
which is called the Nativity Fast (or Advent).
the Gospel of Matthew, 2:1-12.
Troparion of the Feast.
Thy, Nativity O Christ our God, hath shined upon the world
the light of knowledge; for thereby, they that worshipped the stars were taught
by a star to worship Thee, the Sun of righteousness, and to know Thee, the
Dayspring from on high. O Lord, glory to Thee.
("Those who worshipped the
stars" were the wise men who studied the sky and
worshipped the stars).
Kontakion of the Feast.
Today the Virgin giveth birth to Him Who is transcendent in
essence; and the earth offereth a cave to Him Who is unapproachable. Angels
with shepherds give glory; with a star the Magi do journey; for our sake a
young Child is born, Who is pre-eternal God.
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