The Nativity You Know Is A Lie

We’re all familiar with the scene. It’s a quiet, starlit evening, Mary and Joseph are reclining comfortably in a quaint country stable. Baby Jesus is sleeping, well, like a baby. As Mary and Joseph rested from their journey, reverent, orderly shepherds and noble wise men visited the happy couple and brought gifts to honor Jesus.

That picture of the first Christmas is wrong.

Not So Silent Night

If we examine the actual circumstances surrounding Jesus’s birth, we find that it wasn’t what we’ve always been told.

The 80-mile journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem would’ve taken at least four days on foot. It was a hazardous journey through rugged terrain, fields and rural towns. Mary was very pregnant, and probably under some emotional stress as a teen mom whose marriage was nearly over before it started (Matthew 1:18-21).

At that time, animal stables in Bethlehem were dark, damp caves in which livestock slept and ate. This was not a tidy, sterile environment for a newborn. The shepherds in that region were social outcasts of low economic status and were looked down on by the rest of society. It was not a calm, comfortable, silent night. It was dirty, smelly, awkward and definitely not charming.

Contrary to modern depictions, the wise men didn’t even visit Jesus immediately after His birth. They arrived at Jesus’s home when He was about 2 years old (Matthew 2:10).

Well Meaning But Wrong

Christmas carols and porcelain nativity scenes are well meaning, but they don’t do justice to the weight of the events that took place that night in the Israeli countryside.

The most important thing we should remember about Christmas is that God came to save sinners (John 3:17). Jesus came from heaven into our mess, not because we deserved it, but because we needed it.

As we celebrate Christmas, let’s remember the beautiful mess the nativity scene was. Let’s remember that no matter how messy parts of our lives can be, Jesus is for us and is with us. In the midst of our messes, Jesus joins us and begins to transform us, and that is something worth celebrating.

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