The stable where Jesus was born was actually a cave as depicted in Eastern Orthodox art. When Mary and Joseph hear people outside, they quickly hide the baby in the trough for hay to feed cattle (called a manger) out of fear for him (in traditional societies newborn babies are not put in cots so the manger was not like a cot). But the people outside turn out to be shepherds come down from the hills. They have been told by angels that a saviour has been born and they go to worship the babe. They are surprised to find him lying in a manger, but this is also a sign. Amazingly enough, some wise men also turn up from the East. The wise men are Zoroastrians from Persia who studied the stars for signs. They saw the ‘star of the Messiah’ rise in the heavens at that exact time. (The bright star could have been a supernova as these occur from time to time).
On the eighth day after giving birth, Roman Empire census registration done, Joseph and Mary take the baby Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem. They take him to the Temple for circumcision and to offer a pair of doves as a sacrifice. When they enter the Temple they meet Simeon who prophesies over the child.
Then they meet Anna, a prophetess who also prophecies. Tradition has it that Mary’s mother’s name was Anne. Anna’s age shows that she could have been Mary’s grandmother. It is possible that the prophetess Anna was the actual great grandmother of Jesus.
At this point Joseph is warned in a dream to take Mary and the child and escape to Egypt. Herod, in an attempt to eliminate all rivals to his kingship, had all the male children in Bethlehem killed.
Here we see the threat to Jesus’ life right from his very birth. We also see the protective role played by Joseph who makes all the decisions of what to do to keep Mary and Jesus safe. Joseph takes Mary and Jesus and they flee to Egypt until it is safe to return to Israel because Herod is dead. At this point they are the ‘Holy family’ the three of them.