A few years ago I thought I needed to get more nativities. You know, Jesus in the manger, the young strapping shepherds, the wise men, the donkey. All that jazz. Now I have a little different understanding. Sometimes I look at nativities and just laugh. Jesus, smiling and happy, more like a one year old than a newborn, with a head full of BLONDE hair. I can tell you right now Jesus didn’t have blonde hair. Jesus was JEWISH. How many Jewish people do you know with blonde hair? Ditto for Mary. And those blue eyes? Not a real big probability either. Like I said, JEWISH.
Our Nativities mean well, but they miss the mark.
Let’s start with this. After Jesus was born, they had to present Him at the temple. The sacrifice Mary and Joseph brought was the offering of the poor – a pair of pigeons (Luke 2:24, Lev. 12:2-8). If they could afford it, the law required a lamb and a pigeon, but Joseph and Mary didn’t have the means to buy a lamb. They brought the offering of the poor.
We have all heard Jesus wasn’t born rich, but let’s consider for a moment what Joseph and Mary were thinking. They had been called to raise the Son of God. Sacrifices were huge to the Jewish people. Did Joseph weep when he realized there was no way he would be able to purchase a lamb for the Son of God’s offering? Did he pray to God for the means to buy a lamb? If he did pray, was he met with silence from God? Or did he get a clear “no” from Daddy?
I bet Joseph did struggle with this. We read the “facts” of the Christmas story but most of the time fail to dive deeper. I bet it broke Joseph’s heart that he couldn’t buy a lamb, but guess what? He had a lamb. He had a lamb right there in his arms – Jesus. Our Passover Lamb. Daddy didn’t want Joseph to be able to afford a lamb because the Lamb was right there. And yes, this Lamb WOULD be sacrificed.
But that is all in hindsight. Think about Joseph and Mary, presenting the Son of God in the temple – with 2 pigeons.
Which brings me to my next point. We always see a donkey in the nativity scene. We have this picture of the nine-month-pregnant Mary riding on a donkey to Bethlehem.
But wait. A donkey is not in the biblical text. And Mary and Joseph were poor. They couldn’t even afford a lamb, much less a donkey. Owning a donkey was like owning a Hummer. NOT in Mary and Joseph’s budget.
Mary probably walked.
Oh, and let’s take the shepherds. In our nativities, they are always young, strapping men. But where they? In Middle Eastern culture, adults do not shepherd the sheep, – kids do. CHILDREN tend the sheep. Most of these kids are girls because they aren’t educated, so they get tossed to the fields. And at times, very young boys tend the sheep.
So, the angels that appeared to the shepherds may have really appeared to CHILDREN.
So the next time you see a nativity, picture the shepherds a lot younger, and some with really long hair. . .
So what about the wise men? Sorry to disappoint you, but they weren’t even at the nativity. Most scholars believe the wise men arrived at least a year – if not more – after the birth of Christ. Remember Herod killing all the children 2 years old and younger? Yeah, that was based on the wise men’s calculation of Jesus’ birth (Matthew 2:16). A slaughter is just what we think about when we see those wise men isn’t it?
We say the cattle were lowing, but the cattle were really pooping. They probably didn’t smell that good and you know what? Mary was about to have a BABY in that.
Blood, uterus, amniotic fluid, baby, hay, and dirt.
Doesn’t sound that great does it?
Oh, and when they laid the Son of God in a manger….well, that really wasn’t filled with hay. A manger in the Middle East is a WATER trough, not a food bin. It was DAMP and COLD.
The Son of God, born on a dirty floor, to a poor couple, and laid in a DAMP manger.
Now let’s pause to consider the symbolism.
They were poor. Why? So Jesus could “sympathize with our weaknesses.” Hebrews 4:15
Kids were called to the manger. “Truly I say to you, unless you. . . become like children you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” Matt 18:3. Why? Because children trust without question. Children love without boundaries. Children run when Daddy calls
And why did Mary and Joseph have to travel to Bethlehem in the first place? I’ll tell you why, Bethlehem means ‘House of Bread.'” Jesus, the “bread of life” was born in the house of bread. “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.” John 6:35
Jesus, the “living water” was laid in a water trough. “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14
Why did God do all this?
For us. To paint us a picture of His Son. My Son is the bread. My Son is the water. My Son loves your children. My Son understands hard times. My Son understands persecution. My Son understands.
Don’t think Jesus understands? Think again.
Don’t think Jesus knows what it means to be betrayed (Luke 22:48), or denied (Luke 22:61), or not believed by even family (John 7:5)? Think again.
Jesus gets it.
No matter what you are going through this Christmas season, Jesus understands. Look to Him for comfort. Look to Him for hope.
Because Jesus is coming back and He will right all those wrongs (1 Peter 5:10). He will change the stables in your life to Eden (Joel 2:3).
Trust and Believe. Become like children. And be called to the manger.
The real one.