By the time they reached Bethlehem, Mary was almost dropping off the donkey that Joseph had hired to make her journey easier. The overland journey had taken them several days, and they had not always been able to find comfortable shelter for the night. In Bethlehem, the situation seemed to be even more difficult. Because of the census, people were pouring into the town and there was not one inn that had a room that they could rent. Joseph was desperate. Not only did he need a room where Mary could rest and be private, he also needed a midwife because it looked as if Mary was going to have her baby any minute. His desperation gave the otherwise quiet and shy man the courage he needed. He walked up to the innkeeper of the nearest inn and said, "Look, I know there are no rooms to be had; everyone has told us the same story. But my wife is heavy with child, and she must have some room where she can have the baby." The innkeeper's wife said, "Look, why don't they go to the stables behind the inn. It's not a room, but they can use the hay to make up some kind of bed, and I can run to Rachel the midwife's house and see that she's there soon."
And so, instead of a proper bed and clean linen, Mary's baby, the Son of God, was born in a stable, and, wrapped in swaddling clothes, placed in a manger filled with sweet-smelling hay.
That night, some shepherds watching their sheep on a cold Bethlehem hillside were dazzled by a light of blazing intensity. When they could actually look up, shading their eyes from the brightness, they saw a tall angel, with his shining wings furled, who said to them, "Don't be afraid, I bring you good news. The Messiah has been born in the city of David. You will recognize Him as being wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger." And then the sky was filled with rank upon rank of angels - as far as the eye could see. And the shepherds' ears were filled with the sound of a thousand voices singing, "Glory to God in the Highest, Peace on Earth, and Goodwill to all Men."
The shepherds said, "Let us go at once and see this miracle that we have been privileged to be part of!" And so they scoped up the little lambs and ran all the way into the town. After looking into a dozen or more stables, they found one behind Judah's inn, where a tired but radiant young mother gazed at her tiny baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes and placed in a manger, with cattle lowing gently around.
Mary, watching the rough shepherds as they knelt in reverence before her son, thought, "Truly this is the work of God." The shepherds rushed out and told everyone that they encountered about the miracle that had come to pass.