A friend on Facebook shared this picture. When I first saw it, I chuckled at it and thought it was clever. As I went through my day, that image kept reappearing in my mind. The more I thought about it, I realized that it was more accurate than I had ever realized. You see, I want to believe that Jesus’s birth was like the Christmas pageants we observe during the holidays. I want to think that Jesus’s birth was a peaceful event just like the nativity scene that adorns my mantle. But truthfully, it is more like the simple scene in this photo.
I do not claim to be a Bible scholar by any means. I did some research on each of the parts of our humble nativity scene. It was quite interesting and wanted to share them with you.
The crèche — We know that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, however the time and place are unclear. We know that Mary and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem because of a Roman census. Tim Chaffey, who writes for http://www.AnswersinGenesis.org, tells us that Mary and Joseph would have stayed with relatives during this time and not at an inn or motel like we have today. He writes that the Greek word for inn in this scripture means a guest room.
Joseph and Mary probably stayed with Joseph’s relatives in Bethlehem. Because of the large influx of people, the house would have been crowded and the guest room was full, he writes. Chaffey also explains that modern archaeologists, who have excavated first century homes from the Judean hill country, have discovered that the upper level served as a guest chamber. Lower level rooms served as the living and dining rooms. Oftentimes, the more vulnerable animals would be brought in at night to protect them from the cold and theft. Thus, Mary and Joseph could have been in one of these guest rooms with a few animals – not in a barn as so many Christmas pageants portray.
The camel – The camel shouldn’t even be part of a nativity scene because it is believed that the wise men came to see Jesus as a young child and not an infant. Chaffey writes that the Greek word for young child is used to describe Jesus in Matthew 2 at the time that the magi arrived. However, he warns that no one knows Jesus’s age or why the family was back in Bethlehem when the magi arrived. These mysteries contribute to this misconception concerning the nativity.
The angel – The Bible tells us that the angel announced Jesus’s birth, and the multitude praised God. Chaffey tells us that surprisingly, the Bible doesn’t state that the angels sang. We don’t know what they did, but we can be assured that it was magnificent. We do know the angels spoke to the shepherds but we don’t know if and when the shepherds actually visited the Holy family, he adds.
Mary and Joseph – I can’t help but have admiration and respect for these two. They were put in a terrible situation and yet, they trusted God and his plan. At the time of the divine conception, Mary and Joseph were betrothed, which was as legally binding as marriage is today. They were regarded as husband and wife, and a certificate of divorce would be required to dissolve that union. Chaffey tells us that Joseph could have charged Mary with adultery because of her pregnancy. She could have been stoned to death. Joseph wanted to put Mary away secretly, which means he was planning to obtain a legal divorce, Chaffey writes. But after the angel appeared to Joseph, he chose not to press charges and keep Mary for his wife.
Jesus – I find it interesting that our Lord and Savior was placed in a manger. This is the equivalent of a feeding trough. I am thinking that maybe Mary needed to rest or take care of some personal business and so she laid Jesus in the manger. Possibly the floor was dirty or cold. It wouldn’t be my first choice to put my child and I’m sure it wasn’t Mary’s either. Of course, Jesus didn’t come to earth just to inspire heartwarming stories and glorious holiday pageants. He came to live a sinless life. He revealed to man who God is and modeled how we should live. He died a horrible, sacrificial death on the cross for our sins, and conquered death by rising from the dead!
It’s been my observation that God likes to use the most likely of circumstances and people to get a task done. He didn’t choose the largest brother to conquer Goliath. He chose the youngest one, a teenager. He didn’t choose a great leader to head up a trip to the Promised Land. He chose a man who needed his brother to speak for him. We both know how both of those stories turned out.
Many of God’s prophesies were fulfilled that night, but not with the splendor and magnificence that it should have been. I believe God uses humble people of the world, so that we can really see His glory in action. When we see what God can do with ordinary people, we realize that He can do the same with us. We are all empty, everyday objects just like the ones in our nativity. But with God’s power and plan, these ordinary objects and people can do wonderful things and touch others!