About the Christmas Story
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. For many families that means it’s time to get the Nativity scene decorations down from the attic.
But did you know a lot of the pieces of that Nativity scene are actually misconceptions? Here is a list of the most common misconceptions that you can talk through with your kids as you set up your nativity set this year. As you discuss each one, check the scripture references to see what we all thought may, in fact, not be so.
There was a star the night Jesus was born.
It’s difficult to find a nativity scene (or Christmas play) without a star over the manger. Many of us believe that the shepherds and wise men followed the star. The problem is there’s no indication the star hovered over the manger on the night Jesus was born. When the angels announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds, they weren’t told to look for a star. They were told to look for something else: “And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:12).
The star was not shown to the shepherds, but to the wise men (Matt. 2:2), who appear to be visiting Jesus later on. How much later is unclear, but the fact that Herod commands all the babies in the region younger than 2 years old to be killed suggests Jesus may have been in Bethlehem for some time.
There were three wise men.
Speaking of the wise men, in both nativity sets and in song (“We Three Kings”) we get the undeniable impression there were three of them. The problem, however, is that this number of three is found nowhere in biblical accounts. The idea of three wise men more than likely comes from the three gifts brought: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Jesus Was Born in a barn or stable.
Since Joseph could find no spot in the inn, then he must have been forced to stay in the stable. Every nativity scene ever created places Jesus in a barn of sorts.
But the Bible doesn’t say he was born in a barn. It only says Mary “laid in him in a manger” (Luke 2:7). Although that might seem to suggest it was a barn, it was common back then for mangers to be kept in the main room of village houses during this time period. Why? Because the animals were often housed just a few feet away in an adjacent room.
Jesus was born on December 25.
If we celebrate Jesus’s birthday on December 25, it’s logical to think this was the day on which he was born. But the precise date of Jesus’s birth is uncertain. A variety of options have been suggested throughout church history, including March 21, April 15, and May 20.
When we take a closer look at these biblical clues, a wonderful—and hopefully more accurate—picture emerges of what happened that night nearly 2,000 years ago.
And what happened that night still stands as one of the most important events in human history. God became a man and entered our world to save us.