This was my church newsletter aritlce that won't be published :-(
The Nativity scene is not at all like we picture it. It was not like the romantic scenes that adorn our mantles or the plastic figures than ornament our lawns. It was a dirty, filthy, unsightly event. And when we understand the birth of Jesus as it actually happened, we see a whole new message in the Christmas story.
Picture this... the year is about 5 B.C. Joseph is about 20 years old and Mary is no older than 15 years old. Mary is pregnant when an order is given that a census is to be taken throughout the Roman world for tax purposes. So, Joseph and Mary travel to Bethlehem.
In the ancient world, there were elaborate rules of hospitality. If you had even a remote connection to someone, you had an obligation to host him in your house during his stay. Bethlehem is the hometown of the line of David. Joseph was part of that family line (that’s why he went to Bethlehem), and he would have had some connections there. So, we can assume that many would have offered their homes to Joseph, provided there was room. But the Bible tells us that there was no room. These houses’ guest rooms were already filled with other travelers. So Mary and Joseph are left with no alternative but to shack up in a stable.
Now, the stable was nothing like we picture it today. Most likely, it was a cave or even a hollowed out piece of rock. So here are Mary and Joseph in a cave. It is early spring in Bethlehem. It’s warm outside. And it’s probably raining from spring storms.
So, Jesus was born in a hot, wet, damp cave. This was the first Christmas. Now, I don’t mean to be overly-graphic or anything, but there must be blood everywhere. Childbirth is not a neat, pretty picture. So, here is Jesus born in a hot, wet, damp, bloody cave.
He is placed in a feeding trough that was probably built into the floor of the cave. This is the nativity scene.
The Bible tells us of shepherds and Magi visiting Jesus. Shepherds were despised by the religious leaders in Jesus’ day. And the Magi were not kings; they were pagan astrologers. They studied the stars for signs and wonders. This is ironic because the Law expressly forbids astrology. It is not the religious leaders or those who are ‘ritually clean’ by the Law that are made aware of Jesus’ birth. Instead, it is to those who seek him and are willing to go that this news is given.
Within two years of Jesus’ life. He and his family were on the run. Herod, the “King of the Jews,” as he called himself, wanted the child dead. Jesus was not greeted into this world as a king; he was hunted. He was not born into a wealthy family; he was born into an average, poor family. And his birth was not a romantic picture; it was the beginning of his suffering. It was the beginning of him taking our dirt and fifth onto himself.