The Christmas Nativity

Beginning in early December, Christmas Nativity scenes pop up in front of churches all over the country. Some depict the baby Jesus and Mary and Joseph. Others display the three Wise Men or “Magi” alongside the baby Jesus and his parents. Shepherds and their flocks are included, too. Still others feature stable animals and angels.

Let’s take a look into the Nativity scene though God’s Word. Two gospels in the Holy Bible contain an account of Jesus’ birth—Matthew and Luke. Both accounts mention that the Christ child was to be born of a virgin named Mary, who was pledged to be married to a man named Joseph (St. Matt. 1:18-25; St. Luke 2:1-7). They traveled to Bethlehem in the land of Judea where Mary gave birth to the Savior.

According to the book of Matthew, Magi visited Jerusalem and asked King Herod where the birth of the prophesied Christ had taken place (St. Matt. 2:1-12). They followed a star which led them to Bethlehem where they visited with the baby Jesus and his parents. In honor of his birth, they presented gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. They never revealed the child’s location to anyone, thus ensuring his family’s safety from King Herod.

The book of Luke does not mention the Magi, but a group of shepherds tending their flocks (St. Luke 2:8-20). An angel of the Lord appeared in the midst of the shepherds and told them of the birth of Jesus and its significance. Following the angel’s instructions, the shepherds found the baby in Bethlehem, laying in a manger, or feeding trough, in the stable, because the inn had no room. After their visit, the shepherds told anyone who would listen about what they had witnessed.

The Magi were wealthy Middle Eastern men who traveled a fair distance to view the Messiah. Their wealth is evidenced by the caliber of the gifts they presented. The shepherds, in contrast, were simple, hardworking men who were given a revelation from God about the baby Jesus. It seems like they represent who Jesus was born to save—the rich and the poor.

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