The Christmas Story
The story of Christmas dates back over 4000 years. During this era, Rome was a great empire ruled by Caesar Augustus and Israel was governed by King Herod.
Mary and Joseph
In the small village of Galilee in Nazareth, Israel, lived Mary a young virgin who was engaged to be married to Joesph, a Jewish carpenter. An angel visited Mary in her dream who told her she had been chosen to bear a Son of God and his name was to be Jesus. And thus, it happened that when Mary was still engaged to Joseph, she miraculously became pregnant through the Holy Spirit. When Mary told Joseph, naturally he felt betrayed, but an angel visited him in his dream and assured what Mary had told him to be true. He thus took Mary to be his wife despite a possible public disgrace.
The Nazareth & Bethlehem
At that time, Caesar Augustus declared that a census should be taken of every person in the entire Roman empire. And, everybody had to go to the place to which they belonged to register. As Joseph, was of the line of David, he and Mary had to go to Bethlehem to register. Joseph and Mary left Nazareth for Bethlehem. Mary who was with child, and close to the birth, rode on a donkey while Joseph walked beside her.
They traveled for many days and only rested at night. When they reached Bethlehem, it was night. They looked for a place to rest but there was no empty room when they reached the inn. As they were being turned away, Joseph mentioned that his wife was with child and close to birth. The inn keeper took pity on them and told them of some caves in the nearby hills where shepherds would stay with their cows and sheep.
Jesus Is Born
So Joseph and Mary went up into the hills and found the caves. In one cave was a stable room. Joseph cleaned it and made beds of fresh hay. He found a feeding trough which he cleaned and filled with hay to use as a crib. The next night, Mary gave birth to a son and they named him Jesus, as the angel had said.
When the child was born a shining star appeared over Bethlehem that could be seen for miles around. In the fields nearby were shepherds who were tending their flocks of sheep. An angel appeared to them surrounded by bright light. The shepherds were frightened and tried to run.
"Fear Not," said the angel, "For I bring you tidings of great joy. For unto you is born this day in Bethlehem - a Savior who is Christ the Lord."
"And this shall be a sign unto you. You shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger."
Suddenly the sky was filled with angels, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth peace, good will toward men."
After the angels departed the shepherds set out for Bethlehem. When they reached the cave they found the stable and inside was the child wrapped in swaddling clothes. The shepherds left, praising the lord and soon spread the news about this miraculous child who was to be the Savior of the world.
The Three Kings
As the star shined over Bethlehem, three kings of the east saw it. They knew it was a sign and they set off to follow the star. There was Caspar - the young king of Tarsus, Melchior – the king of Arabia who was a long bearded old man, and Balthazar - the king from Ethiopia. They traveled on camels for many days over mountains, through deserts and plains always following the shining star.
When they finally arrived in Bethlehem they found the child in the manger. The three kings bowed to the child and offered gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. They stayed the night in the cave and returned the next day to their lands to spread the news.
Significance of Christmas
The Significance of Christmas is known to men, all over the world. Though it is true that Christmas is celebrated as the day of the Birth of Christ into this world, yet it also symbolizes a very deeply significant truth of the spiritual life. Jesus Christ is the very personification of Divinity. He was born at a time when ignorance, superstition, greed, hatred and hypocrisy prevailed upon the land. Purity was forgotten and morality was neglected.
In the midst of these conditions, Christ was born and He worked a transformation in the lives of people. He gave a new and a spiritual turn to the lives of man. There came a change upon the land. People started upon a new way of life. Thus, a new era dawned for the world.
In that period the seeker has no thought of God or higher spiritual life. He lived a life of lust, anger, greed, deluded attachment, pride and jealousy. If the seeker must enter into a new life of spiritual aspiration, purity and devotion, then the Christ-spirit must take its birth within his heart. That is the real Christmas when the Divine element begins to express itself in the heart of the man. From then onward, light begins to shine where darkness was before.
A very small, but very beautiful, point of deep significance is attached to Christmas. It is the time and the manner of the birth of the Lord upon the holy Christmas day. Jesus Christ was not born in a grand palace. He was not born to very wealthy or learned parents. Jesus Christ was born in a simple lowly place, a corner of a stable. He was born to humble and poor parents, who had nothing to boast about, except their own spotless character and holiness.
The above point of deep significance tells that the spiritual awakening comes to the seeker, who is perfectly humble and "meek" and "poor in spirit." The quality of true humility is one of the indispensable fundamentals. Then we find simplicity, holiness and the renunciation of all desire for worldly wealth and pride of learning. Thirdly, even as Christ was born unknown to the world and in the obscurity of darkness, even so, the advent of the Christ-spirit takes place in the inwardness of man when there is total self-effacement self-abnegation. /MP