Uncovering the Real Nativity is a little booklet from one of my favorite ministries, Answers in Genesis. I love AIG because they teach that the Bible is TRUE, cover to cover. The earth is not millions of years old, like so many children’s books and public education teaches. God really did create the earth in six 24-hour days and there’s plenty of proof to back that up! Including the fact that God Himself said that’s how He did it. 🙂
This little booklet teaches some things about Christmas that most people may not realize.
“It’s a familiar scene. The average Nativity shows Mary and Joseph positioned in the center of the rustic setting, surrounded by cattle, sheep, and donkeys- all facing the newborn king. The shepherds stand over to one side… all lined up in a semi-circular row. Across from them are three wisemen with their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. All this takes place in a stable. Didn’t we read that the innkeeper had no room for them in the inn, so he reluctantly let them stay out back in his stable? But wait… does the Bible really fill in all these details? Or have we added tradition upon tradition until the glittery scene before us hardly resembles the real historical event- the night of our Savior’s birth.”
Before I tell you about the answers in the booklet, there’s a fun True/False quiz at the beginning. See how you do…
True or False?
1. Mary was in labor when she got into town, so Joseph had to take whatever lodging he could get.
2. The Bible says that Mary and Joseph spent the night in a stable.
3. The innkeeper told Mary and Joseph there was no room for them in the inn.
4. The Bible says there were three wisemen.
5. The wisemen were present the night of Christ’s birth.
Here are the answers:
1. False. “And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.” Luke 2:6
2. False. There is no mention of a stable, only a manger, but we now know through archaeology that there was a manger in the lower level of the average house of the area at that time.
3. False. There is no mention of an inn-keeper in the Biblical account of Christ’s birth.
4. False. The Bible tells us there were three gifts, but it does not tell us how many wisemen were there.
5. Probably False. The text doesn’t really say, but if you carefully read Matthew 1 and 2, you can see that Jesus could have been as much as two years old when the wisemen visited Him.
When you read the word “inn,” think guest room. They didn’t have hotels.
“Just because Mary laid the baby Jesus in a manger doesn’t mean they were in a stable. First-century Bethlehem was not like the farm communities that have been developed since that time. Many archaeologists believe that the lowest level of the common peasant home was where animals were brought in at night. This would have protected the animals from thieves and may have provided extra warmth to the family on cold nights. Even in our modern times, many Middle Eastern homes have lower levels with built-in mangers.”
“Joseph and Mary were probably welcomed into the home of relatives. But due to the census, many people were returning to Bethlehem (think big crowds), including Joseph’s other out-of-town relatives. Because the traditional guest room was already taken, Mary laid the baby Jesus in a manger, instead of the guest room. Under the circumstances, a built-in stone manger would be unusual and humble, but a perfectly suitable place to serve as a temporary crib to lay the newborn Son of God.”
Putting it All Together: “Joseph and Mary sought shelter, probably among relatives, but the guest room was full because of the census. So they may have slept in the lower level, which was perfectly natural in that culture. In fact, many homes had only one room where everyone slept. Luke 2:6 says that “days” passed by while “they were there” before the birth occurred. So, at some time during their stay (but not on the night of their arrival in Bethlehem), Jesus was born, probably in a humble peasant home, and laid in a manger that may have been located in the lower level of the house.”
God’s Solution: “God was not surprised when Adam and Eve chose to disobey. God, in His wisdom, knew exactly what they (and we) would choose. Sadly, as a consequence of their sin. God had to kill animals to make clothing as a covering for Adam and Eve. This was the first sacrifice. From that point on, throughout the rest of the Old Testament, God required animal sacrifices as a temporary sin covering- a picture of the perfect sacrifice that was yet to come to provide the answer to the universal sin problem.”
“The Israelites sacrificed spotless lambs for generations as temporary payment for sin, but only a son of Adam, one who was perfect and without sin, could pay the price once and for all. In order to save us from sin and its penalty (death), Jesus Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God became one of us on that special night in Bethlehm. He grew up and willingly died in our place on the cross. And then three days later, He rose again, conquering sin’s death penalty.”
“Jesus shattered the separation between God and us, and now offers the marvelous gift of eternal life to all who repent of their sins and believe in Him. He is “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”
“The Christmas account is one of the most beautiful, powerful, and meaningful events in all of history because the birth of Jesus addresses man’s greatest need– the need of a Savior.”
“This Christmas, may we suggest that you start a new tradition: remove the Nativity out from its hiding place under the tree and set it in a featured place in your home. Take the wisemen and place them across the room. After all, they’re probably still on their way! Then set aside a special time to gather together, open the Bible, and read the amazing historical record of Mary and Joseph, to whom God entrusted His precious Son.”