Meditation on the Birth of Christ

Richard Salbato

Before Each Hail Mary

1.  Herod, placed in power by Caesar Augustus, ordered a census of the Jewish People and each had to register in the town of his birth. Joseph was born in Bethlehem and had to go there to register. Mary was near Her ninth month of pregnancy but insisted on going with him. They took two donkeys and one baby donkey with them. Joseph was not worried about finding housing when in Bethlehem because his entire family lived there, and they were very wealthy. This did not happen, as you know, because in spite of Mary being pregnant, his family was very much into money, and they could rent out rooms for a great deal of money because of the large number of people coming to register.

2.  They were forced into staying in a cave that was used for the sheep and cattle. Joseph used his talent as a screen maker to divide the cave into rooms and gave the back room to Mary. In the roof of this back room was an opening to let the smoke escape and allow fresh air in. The cave was in the side of a hill just outside the city of Bethlehem. Even before they arrived in the city, a star began to follow them and stood over the cave with its rays pointing into the hole in Her room.

3.  Meanwhile, far off, three different Kings from three different nations, believed there would be a star to announce a future King. All three of these kings observed this star. Unbeknownst to each other, they each put together a large caravan of servants, family, camels, horses, and livestock to make the long journey following the star. They met together just outside of Jerusalem, and exchanged their beliefs and sightings of the stars. As is the custom for strangers, they went to King Herod and told him of their reason for passing through his land. Herod was upset when they told him of a king being born because he knew of the Jewish belief in the Messiah, but he hid his irritation. He told the three kings to return to him and tell him of their findings so that he, too, could go and worship the new king.

4. The time came for the birth of Jesus. Light filled the room where Mary sat on Her knees in prayer through the small hole in the roof. The fire was nothing but cinders, but the room was warm on the cold night. Suddenly the child passed through Her stomach and into Her arms without any pain whatsoever. The Child opened His eyes and smiled at Her but did not cry. For the first time in history a human being was looked into the face of God. Mary contemplated and worshipped the child in Her arms. In time Joseph came in and knelt down to worship the newly born Christ child. Behind him came some animals. They also knelt down to worship the God made man.

5.  In the meantime, an Angel appeared to some shepherds watching their flock and the light from the Angel filled the hills around them.

“Fear not for behold I bring you tidings of great joy, that will be to all the people. For this day is born to you a Savior, who is the Christ the Lord, in the city of David. And this shall be a sign to you. You will find the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger.”

Suddenly a multitude of Angels appeared singing: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to all men of good will.”

The shepherds went to the cave to worship God in the manger and then went away spreading the word thoughout Bethlehem. On the eighth day, according to the law, Jesus was circumcised.

6.  The three wise kings followed the rays of the star right to the cave. The three caravans of the kings amounted to thousands of people, camels, horses and cattle. The kings went in to worship the child, and their servants set up tents and tied up the livestock. No longer was the birth a secret but was the talk of the entire city and the surrounding lands.

7.  The kings bowed down and worshipped the Child and offered gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. An Angel appeared to the them and they were told not to go back to inform Herod, so they returned to their own counties by a different route so they could avoid Herod.

8.  However, it was no longer safe for Jesus, Mary and Joseph. They had to leave Bethlehem near the 40th day of Christ’s birth and went up to Jerusalem using the back roads.

9. The Holy Family would escape the rage of Herod but not the Holy Innocents.  In time Herod would kill thousands of the first born children of the Jewish people.  They would become the first martyrs of the Church. 

10. Mary, holding the Christ-child and sitting on a donkey with Joseph walking beside would be the lot of the holiest family on earth for the next three months as they traveled through Judea and into Egypt.