A THRONG OF PILGRIMS ENTERING BETHLEHEM ON CHRISTMAS DAY.
was well known that he and Mary were of the tribe of Judah and family of David, and that Bethlehem was their ancestral home. Accordingly, they left the Nazareth home, in the territory of Zebulun, and came to David’s “own city,” in the territory of Judah.
They came down the east bank of the Jordan, crossed the river at Jericho, and came up among the Judean hills and valleys till they reached Bethlehem. It was a long journey, and a wearisome one; and, on arriving, a place of rest was the first thing sought. Evidently they had no friends living in the place; or, if they had, their houses were already filled. It was necessary that shelter be had, and immediately. In the khan, or inn, there was no room; so there was nothing to do but occupy a part of the space provided for cattle. It was not an unusual thing to do, and is often done to-day in these Eastern villages. In fact, they were about as comfortable there as in any khan. At a khan one may procure a cup of coffee and a place to lie down on the floor; but each guest provides his own bed and covering. This was all Joseph and Mary could have obtained in the inn, had there been room for them. And here in Bethlehem, in a stable, or a cave used for stabling animals, Jesus was born, and Mary “wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger.”
There is one short walk we should take before entering the Church of the Nativity and the cave beneath it. This is to the “Field of the Shepherds,” about a mile east of the church, and the traditional place where the shepherds were watching their flocks on that momentous night. This may not be the exact place where the angels appeared, but there is no reason why we may not accept the tradition which has placed the event here. It has often been wondered why the shepherds had their flocks out all night in the winter time; and the wonder is easily satisfied when we know that these were not ordinary flocks of sheep nor ordinary
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