This chapter is probably one of the most famous in the Bible. It has the "Christmas Story" about the birth of the Christ Child and shepherds who came in from the fields to see baby Jesus. It also contains the account of twelve-year-old Jesus teaching in the Temple.
1. And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world (everyone in the Roman Empire should be taxed).
2. [And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.]
3. And all went to be taxed, every one into his own town.
This was actually a process of registration or taking a census of all the people who were subject to the Roman government. Based on this census and registration, taxes were later assessed and then collected. The roman government allowed people to register in the towns where they currently lived, but Jewish custom required that the Jews go to their hometowns to register and be counted. Thus, Joseph and Mary had to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem, a distance of some one hundred plus miles.
4. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem [thus fulfilling the prophecy in Micah 5:2 that Christ would be born in Bethlehem]; (because he was of the house and lineage of David).
5. To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
Note: Mary was indeed "great with child", for the Savior was born while she and Joseph were in Bethlehem. It is highly likely that Mary was in labor during the long journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem.
6. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
7. And she brought forth her first born son, and wrapped him in swaddling cloth, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
"Swaddling clothes" were bands of cloth in which a newborn baby was wrapped. The baby was placed diagonally upon a square piece of cloth. The bottom corner of the square cloth was folded up to cover the baby's feet, and the side corners were folded in to cover the baby's sides. Then bands of cloth were wound around the baby to make a warm, comfortable bundle.