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John.” They made signs to his father, who was still dumb, to know how he would have him called. And he asked for a writing table, and wrote, saying, “ His name is John.

And they all marvelled. And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spake and praised God; and all who heard of these wonderful events were filled with astonishment. “ What manner of child shall this be?” said the people one to another. But Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied ; saying,

“ Blessed be the Lord God of Israel ; For he hath visited and redeemed his people, And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us In the house of his servant David; As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets ;To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, And to remember his holy covenant; The oath which he sware to our father Abraham. And thou, child, Shalt be called the prophet of the Highest : For thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his

ways; To give knowledge of salvation unto his people By the remission of their sins."

And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his showing unto Israel.

THE BIRTH OF JESUS.

2. At that time the Roman emperor Augustus made a decree that all his subjects should be enrolled, according to their families, with their age and property ; and for this purpose every person

d Luke i. 67–77.

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in the land of Canaan was required to go to the city or town where his family in former times had been accustomed to dwell. Mary was descended from the ancient royal family of David, which had been reduced and become very poor; and so was her espoused husband Joseph, who was a penter at Nazareth. An angel had appeared in a dream to Joseph, and had told him that Mary should bear a son, whose name should be called Jesus (Saviour), for he should save his people from their sins.

At the same time he was commanded to take Mary unto himself. Accordingly, he journeyed with her to Bethlehem, where the family of David had been of old accustomed to dwell; and so it happened that the prophecy of the prophet Micah was fulfilled, that Messiah the king of Israel should be born in the little town of Bethlehem.

When they came to Bethlehem, the town was so full that they found no reception even in the house appointed for travellers; and they were therefore obliged to take refuge in a stable. Here Mary brought forth her first-born son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger. There He lay as a poor feeble child, who now sits upon the highest of all thrones—unknown to any but Joseph and Mary.

But he was to be made known. There were shepherds in the field, who were keeping watch over their flocks by night. To them the angel of the Lord appeared, surrounded with great glory, and he said, “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. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of

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the heavenly host, praising God, and saying,

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. After these thousandvoiced praises to God, the angels went up again to heaven. The shepherds went with haste in the night to Bethlehem, and found it even as the angel had said. And they told Joseph and Mary, as well as many other persons, what they had seen in the fields. Every one was filled with wonder; but Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart, a

On the eighth day after his birth the child was circumcised, and his name was called JESUS.

Forty days after his birth the child Jesus was brought to the temple at Jerusalem, as the law of Moses directed. There was a pious old man,

named Simeon, to whom it had been revealed by the Spirit of God that he should before his death see the Messiah. On this day he had, under the impulse of the Spirit, come to the temple, and he took the child up in his arms, and said, “ Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace;

a Luke ii. 4-19.

for mine eyes have seen thy salvation.” And to Mary

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he said, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel ; and for a sign which shall be spoken against ; (yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many

be revealed.” An aged prophetess, Anna, also came in at that instant, and gave thanks to the Lord; and spake of him to all that were looking for redemption in Jerusalem.

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3.

THE WISE MEN FROM THE EAST.

What led Joseph and Mary to stay at Bethlehem

Luke ii. 25—30, 34, 35.

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after this, we are not informed. It is enough to know that they were there when the wise men, some time afterwards, came from the east, asking, “ Where is he that is born King of the Jews ? for we have seen his star in the east, and

come to worship him.” With this question they came to Jerusalem, for there they thought it could best be answered. For four thousand years the Messiah had been waited for; now all at once comes the report that he is born. But instead of rejoicing greatly at this, Herod was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Why was this? They had not a good conscience. Herod called together the great Council of the nation, to put to them the question where the Messiah was to be born. Being in some measure acquainted with the writings of the prophets, they answered, “ In Bethlehem : for thus it is written by the prophet Micah.”a

Herod, always ready with wicked plans, sent for the wise men, and inquired of them at what time the star appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, “Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.” But his real intention was very different.

The wise men went on in the evening, and the star which they had seen in the east showed them the way to the child. And they fell down before him and worshipped him; and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. They

a Matt. ii. 1-6.

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