Christmas was my favorite holiday when I was a child. I loved decorating the house, inside and outside. I loved going to the tree lot to pick out a real tree, then bringing it home and decorating it. It was always so huge so there was a lot of decorating to be done. We wrapped presents for the grandchildren and helped my mom prepared Christmas dinner. There was a lot going on.
But my favorite part was when I got to put up the Nativity scene on the buffet cabinet. That was my job, mostly because I declared it to be. I wouldn’t let anyone else help. I waited a long time to be old enough to do this by myself and now that I was I wasn’t letting anyone mess with my perfection.
I carefully took out all of the pieces, which lay in a box of hay. I set the manger up and laid baby Jesus in the middle with Mary and Joseph kneeling on either side of him. Next, I placed the three kings in a semi circle around baby Jesus. They were dressed in royal clothing with turbans on their heads and a gift in their hands. I followed this by placing the angel on the hook at the top of the manger. She held a banner that read, “Peace to all men.” Next, I placed the animals and other angels around the manger with a few animals inside. Finally, I strategically laid the straw inside and outside the manger, making sure none fell on the floor.
When I finished putting the manger up I would step back and admire perfection. I loved this manger and all of its pieces. Something about it captured my attention at a very young age and it never decreased. After admiring my work, I wound up the box on the side and listened to the music. Every time I went by it I had to make sure the music was playing. This is my fondest memory of Christmas – the Nativity scene.
Therefore, it pleased me to hear the story of Jesus born in a manger with three wise men presenting him with a gift each Christmas. So imagine my surprise when I found out after studying the Bible that this is not what happened at all. To break the cycle of misinformation surrounding Jesus’ birth, I thought it was time to tell the real nativity story, which can be found in Luke 2.
The Real Story
Joseph and Mary were on their way back home to be counted in the census. First, they inquired at the inn but all of the rooms were taken. Everyone had to come back to their birth place to be counted. There was nowhere for them to go. Not real sure who brought up the stables as being a viable place to stay until the census was complete, but that’s where they ended up at.
While there Mary went into labor and Yeshua (Jesus) was born in the stables with the animals. She wrapped him in swaddling cloth and laid him in a manger. Some people think of a manger as some pretty little bed with soft straw in it. But it was just a long wooden box that the animals ate from. Perhaps Joseph found an empty one and filled it with straw to cushion the baby. I know that’s what I would have done.
Now some people believe Mary and Joseph were poor because she gave birth in a stable. They weren’t. They had money to travel back home to be counted. They had money to pay the innkeeper for a room. They had money to have the proper clothing for their new born baby. That’s not poor. Let’s continue.
Shepherds Not Wise Men
In the same area there were some shepherds in the field watching over their flocks at night. An angel of Yahweh came to them and the glory of Yahweh shown all around them. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid, because I am here announcing to you Good News that will bring great joy to all the people. This very day, in the town of David, there was born for you a Deliverer who is the Messiah, the Lord. Here is how you will know: you will find a baby wrapped in cloth and lying in a feeding trough.” (Luke 2:10-12 CJB)
Suddenly, the shepherds saw a vast army of other angels join the first angel. They praise God saying, “In the highest heaven, glory to God! And on earth, peace among people of good will!” Then the angels left them.
The shepherds hurried off to find the baby Messiah. When they found him with his parents, they told Joseph and Mary all that had taken place a little while ago. Everyone around them was amazed by what was said.
During this whole scene the Bible never tells us how many shepherds were involved. No presents were given – only confirmation about the son of God.
Mary must have constantly thought about what an angel told her just nine months ago. She was going to carry the Son of God in her womb. Now the shepherds confirmed that she gave birth to the Son of God, the Messiah and Deliverer that the Holy Scriptures talked about. Thus, she held on to every word said and pondered them in her heart.
Praise God in the Highest
Afterwards, the shepherds returned to their flock, praising God for everything that was shown and told to them. Let’s shout with the shepherds and the angels, “Praise God in the highest.”
And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered; everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.
So it was that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.”
And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them. (Luke 2:1-20 NKJV)