With the Christmas season upon us, it’s time to break out all our decorations. The tree. The stockings. The garland. And, yes, of course, the nativity scene.
I love my nativity scene. I got it in Bethlehem when I visited Israel a couple years ago. And I don’t only pull it out during Christmas. It stays on my mantle all year long.
But what if our nativity scene isn’t exactly accurate to how Jesus’ birth actually happened?
It’s no secret that we Christians treasure artistic imagery of Jesus that isn’t always historically accurate. After all, it’s not likely that Jesus had a Western European complexion and long, flowing hair.
But why pick on the classic nativity scene? We all love it! It’s an important part of our Christmas traditions.
I think if we don’t pause to reflect on our traditional conception and imagery of the nativity event, then we may miss something really important about the message of the story as told in Luke’s gospel.
Don’t Freak Out
Don’t worry. I’m not here to tell you that you need to throw out all the nativity decorations you’ve collected over the years. You’re not a heretic for loving and cherishing them.
With that being said, I don’t think Jesus was born in a stable. Or a cave for that matter.
I’ve been to Bethlehem and touched the rock that Jesus was supposedly laid on when he was born. But I wouldn’t stake my life on the fact that he was born there, in that precise spot. And it doesn’t actually matter that much.
While the precise location of Jesus’ birth is inconsequential (even though it’s very interesting), the conditions of Jesus’ birth are much more important.
When Luke describes the details of Jesus’ birth, he’s sending us an important message. Unfortunately, we don’t always pick up what he’s throwing down.