Our Pastor says the wise men do not belong in the Nativity scene because they arrived later, possibly two years later bringing their gifts to the child. But most people, including us, keep the wise men in the scene.
If we want to be factually accurate we wouldn’t have the wooden barn or the wooden manger either. Many parades and Christmas plays include Mary riding on a donkey, yet no donkey is mentioned in Luke 2 in the Bible. We celebrate His birth on December 25, but history tells us the Catholic church chose that date. December would have been too cold for shepherds to be sleeping out in the fields. It would have been too cold for Joseph and Mary, or anyone, to take a long journey. It is more likely Jesus was born in late September, during the annual Feast of Tabernacles, when it was more acceptable to travel such a long distance.
Our Nativity scene is wooden, yet traditionally mangers, or troughs where animals were fed, were cut of stone. Archaeologists have unearthed many stone troughs throughout Israel.
More than likely, Mary and Joseph traveled to his hometown of Bethlehem and stayed with relatives. But, because of the census, the house was crowded, and the kataluma was already filled with elderly or more important relatives. (Why they didn’t make room for a girl about to deliver a baby is still a mystery!) Mary and Joseph probably stayed underneath the kataluma, on the bottom level, where the animals stayed and were fed from stone troughs.
Do these new things I learned about the Christmas story ruin it for me? No, not at all. I love Christmas and celebrating the birth of our Savior. I think it is important to read the story from Luke 2, watch movies and plays to help us visualize that night, and display Nativity scenes to commemorate Christ’s birth.
The facts of Jesus's birth are more marvelous than the traditions we hold. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and was born of a virgin (Luke 1:31), just like it had been predicted centuries before (Isaiah 7:14). He was born in Bethlehem and an angel announced his birth to shepherds. They found Him wrapped in swaddling cloths lying in a manger (Luke 2:12).
The truth is:
God so loved the world that He gave His only Son. Whoever puts his trust in God’s Son will not be lost but will have life that lasts forever. (John 3:16 NLV)
Wishing you a Christ-filled Christmas with peace and joy!