THE hill on which Bethlehem stands about a mile long from east to west, and its steep sides, being carefully terraced are planted with fine fruit trees. The neighboring country is exceedingly beautiful, and was once even more so than at present. The surrounding hills and valleys are covered with figs, olives, vines and pomegranates.

Bethlehem was the birthplace, and for many years the home, of king David; and as we go up the hill leading to the gate of the town, we may be almost sure that we are treading on the very ground so often pressed by the feet of that wonderful man who was a shepherd, a conqueror, a psalmist, and a king, excelling alike in all. As we walk through Bethlehem, we may look off across the country on whose plains the fair Ruth gleaned after the reapers of Boaz, among whose hills and rocky ravines David tended his flocks, and from whose wild gorges must have come those savage beasts that David slew with his single hand.

But a greater than David was to be born in Bethlehem. More than a thousand years after the time of David, a company of shepherds in the fields near Bethlehem were keeping watch over their flocks by night, when a light brighter than the sun shone around them, and they saw an angel, who said, "Fear not; for, behold, 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, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.' 

He also told them that in a certain place in Bethlehem they might find the infant Saviour lying in a manger.

''And 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 toward men."

Then the angels went away, and the shepherds, leaving their flocks, hastened to Bethlehem, and came to the place that had been pointed out by the heavenly messenger. There they found a humble man by the name of Joseph, with his young wife Mary, and by them, in a manger, an infant. This was all just as the angel had told them, and the little child was really Christ the Lord.

''And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen;"  "and they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child."

The home of Joseph and Mary was far away, among the hills of Nazareth; but the Roman emperor had made a decree that all the world should be taxed, and since Joseph and Mary were of the family of David, they had come to Bethlehem, the city of David, to have their names enrolled.

Now in those days the Lord required people to present the oldest child to the priest, and to offer a lamb for a burnt offering, and a young pigeon or a turtledove for a sin offering. So when Jesus, as the child was called, was forty days old, Mary took him up to Jerusalem; but as she was not able to offer a lamb, she took two birds, for so the law allowed poor people to do. When Jesus was brought into the temple, Simeon and Anna, a prophet and prophetess of great age, knew, as soon as they saw him, that he was to be the Saviour of the world. So they praised God, and told the people that this child was the Redeemer that had been promised in the Holy Scriptures.