Strangely when a child is born people often think about the past. Past relations (sometimes long gone) are brought to mind. He/She looks just like Great Uncle George, etc. Parents think about their own lives and stories from the past are remembered again.
Jesus was born into a time when stories from the past were even more important. The country where Jesus was born (Israel) was occupied by a foreign army (the Romans) and the people were hoping for someone who would set them free.
They remembered the stories of their past and hoped that soon the promises in the stories would come true. They remembered stories from the earliest of days.
The story of the birth of Jesus begins with the story of Israel
Things had gone wrong with the world since it was first made by God. The story of what went wrong is found in the first 11 chapters of the Bible. We aren't going to cover that now but let's just say that things were going from bad to worse.
It was God's plan to make things right by starting with one person (he chose Abraham) and from this one person to build a nation who would help the rest of the world.
During a time of drought when food was scarce this new nation was welcomed into Egypt, but things did not work out well for them and they found themselves being used as slave labour.
God eventually helped them escape slavery in Egypt, under the leadership of a man called Moses. Moses helped them build a new relationship with God. God made an agreement with the nation (also known as a covenant or testament - hence the old testament). God would help them and they would honour God (they had 10 commandments to help them with this).
They settled in a land that, they believed, had been promised to them by God, a land flowing with milk and honey. Although they had tried to be faithful they had not often succeeded, but still God persevered with his plan.
God's Plan in a nutshell
Create the world and people.
When those people go wrong find some who will still listen and help them.
From one of those, Abraham, start a nation that belongs to me (call the nation Israel).
Train that nation in my ways using a prophet called Moses.
Get this nation to their promised land.
Prepare them for Jesus.
Send Jesus to give people all over the world their life back (good life now and life for eternity).
Israel's prophets predict the coming of an important person - the messiah
Israel believed that God revealed His plan through some special people they called Prophets. Their Prophets had told them that one day God would send someone very special.
This person would bring hope for the future and would change the way that things were at the moment. This would be a new beginning for Israel and for the world.
So Israel waited for the time when the messages of the Prophets would be fulfilled.
When would God set them free? When would God do something?