Every year around Christmas we see nativity scenes. The details of the scenes differ but all of them show the baby Jesus in a manger with Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and the Wise Men either standing or kneeling around him. These scenes serve a useful purpose by reminding everyone that Christmas is about Jesus, not Santa Claus. Unfortunately every nativity scene I have ever seen promotes an error. They show the Wise Men being present at the birth of Jesus. In fact they were nowhere near Bethlehem then and didn’t arrive until much later.
Here is Matthew’s description of the birth of Jesus.
When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus. (Matthew 1:24-25)
He doesn’t give any details about the birth except to tell us that Mary was still a virgin.
Luke 2:1-20 gives a more detailed description of Jesus’s birth. Joseph and Mary were forced to go to Bethlehem because of a decree by Caesar and Jesus was born there and placed in a manger. An angel revealed to a group of shepherds that the Messiah had been born and they came to see him. Read the rest of this entry
Every year before Christmas we see many displays of the birth of Jesus. The display normally consists of a baby in a manger with Joseph, Mary, some shepherds, and the Wise Men gathered around him. The birth of Jesus was an important event in history and it is appropriate that we should remember it but our traditional picture of how it happened is inaccurate. The Wise Men were not there. They were probably still in their home country and hadn’t even started their journey to Bethlehem.
Most of the elements in the traditional manger scene are taken from Luke’s gospel. He tells us why Mary and Joseph had to travel to Bethlehem in the first place and that they had to lay Jesus in a manger because there was no room in the inn. He describes the visit of the shepherds to see the baby. But he never speaks of the Wise Men here or anyplace else. Read the rest of this entry