Sunday, December 20, 2015

A Non-Traditional Christmas

          I love our wooden Nativity scene we bought in Israel. It is made of olive wood and we purchased it on Manger Street in Bethlehem. The street name is kind of cheesy, but it is easy to remember. It is a beautiful reminder of Jesus's miraculous birth.  

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.
Stone manger in Israel.

Our daughter away in a manger.

Something new I learned recently is the Greek word for the term ‘inn’ (kataluma) is only used one other place in the Bible. The word means a “furnished, large upper story room inside a house.” On the last night of Jesus life, when He celebrated Passover with His disciples, He told them to find a kataluma, a large furnished upper room.

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 was 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!


  1. Merry Christmas, Robyn! Any day - every day, really - is a great day to celebrate Jesus! So thankful for grace and freedom and so many amazing traditions that, while may be not being 'accurate' - are being used to bring glory to God!

    1. I agree, it is always a great day to celebrate Jesus! Merry Christmas Karrilee!

  2. Loved reading this post Robyn! I collect manger scenes & fill the house with them -- in all the nooks & crannies :) May your Christmas be blessed & bathed in LIGHT!!

    1. Oh I would love to see your manger scenes. I've wanted to do that, but we only have the one wooden one.