Jesus was born in the town of Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking,
"Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We have seen his star as it arose, and we have come to worship him."
Herod was deeply disturbed by their question, as was all of Jerusalem.
He called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law. "Where did the prophets say the Messiah would be born?" he asked them.
"In Bethlehem," they said, "for this is what the prophet wrote:
'O Bethlehem of Judah, you are not just a lowly village in Judah, for a ruler will come from you who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.' "
Then Herod sent a private message to the wise men, asking them to come see him. At this meeting he learned the exact time when they first saw the star.
Then he told them, "Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!"
After this interview the wise men went their way. Once again the star appeared to them, guiding them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was.
When they saw the star, they were filled with joy!
They entered the house where the child and his mother, Mary, were, and they fell down before him and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
But when it was time to leave, they went home another way, because God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod.
After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. "Get up and flee to Egypt with the child and his mother," the angel said. "Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to try to kill the child."
That night Joseph left for Egypt with the child and Mary, his mother,
and they stayed there until Herod's death. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: "I called my Son out of Egypt."
Herod was furious when he learned that the wise men had outwitted him. He sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, because the wise men had told him the star first appeared to them about two years earlier.
Herod's brutal action fulfilled the prophecy of Jeremiah:
"A cry of anguish is heard in Ramah -- weeping and mourning unrestrained. Rachel weeps for her children, refusing to be comforted -- for they are dead."
When Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and told him,
"Get up and take the child and his mother back to the land of Israel, because those who were trying to kill the child are dead."
So Joseph returned immediately to Israel with Jesus and his mother.
But when he learned that the new ruler was Herod's son Archelaus, he was afraid. Then, in another dream, he was warned to go to Galilee.
So they went and lived in a town called Nazareth. This fulfilled what was spoken by the prophets concerning the Messiah: "He will be called a Nazarene."