Luke 2 tells us that during the time of Caesar Augustus it was decreed that everyone should be taxed. Well to be sure they taxed everyone, first they had to count and register everyone. So everyone had to go to the town where their ancestral records were kept. It would kind of be like everyone having to go to a county seat or state capital to be registered today. So Mary and Joseph set out for Bethlehem which was the ancestral home of David, Joseph’s ancestor.
Now Mary was very far along in her pregnancy and if you have ever seen a lady in the late stages of pregnancy then you know it is not easy for them to move around. She most likely rode a donkey, but it would have been slow going. Because of this they were late getting to Bethlehem and since everyone else had to come there too, there was no room left at the inn. So Mary and Joseph had to stay in a stable (or barn) and when Jesus was born the only place to lay him was in the manger (which is a big box that is basically the same as your dog’s food bowl!).
Now you may be asking why God had it happen that his son wasn’t at least born at home with a nice bed. Well there are a couple of possible reasons. Number one, Jesus needed to fulfill all the prophecies about him. Prophecy said that Jesus would be from Nazareth but born in Bethlehem. I’m sure scholars asked how he could be both. This made his birth all the more miraculous because he was both. God could have had the prophecy just be about Nazareth but this way we had more proof that Jesus truly was the Messiah. Number two, by having Jesus born in such a humble place all of us can identify with him. The person from the saddest of circumstances can know that Jesus understands them!! God had an amazing plan for the world and he planned it down to the smallest detail so that we could be sure that the Messiah had arrived!
Have your kids act out the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem and then going from inn to inn looking for room. Consider letting them “campout” in the floor for the night (or at least to watch a movie or read a book) to recreate Mary and Joseph in the stable. Remind them that all of this was in God’s plan. He knew every detail!