Our church recently held a family event where each family would construct a small nativity set, complete with a barn, angel, shepherds, wise men, Mary, Joseph and Jesus. It was a great evening as I enjoyed the chatter of a passel of children and adults who painted and glued all around me, all the while enjoying hot chocolate and cookies! As the evening wound down it was amazing to see the variety of styles among the dozens of sets produced. Some were simplistic and traditional; some showed great flourishes of artistic ability.  While there were many variations the basic components remained the same.
Now that you are thinking about the nativity scene let me invite you to engage in a little mental exercise. Think of the last nativity scene you saw. Picture that scene in your mind in another way. What if you had no knowledge of the Christmas story and your assignment was to deduce the story from that image of the circumstances of Jesus’ birth? Would you conclude that the baby was of some importance since he is surrounded by a crowd of middle-eastern nobles bearing gifts? But if he has such notoriety why a bed of hay, and why a barnyard maternity ward? What about the sheep, goats or other assorted animals? Why are shepherds there; what is their purpose? Maybe the scene in your mind includes a star and angel or two- does not the mystery grow ever deeper if you only look through the frame of what you see before you?
I think for the uniformed it would not really make sense. With its odd collection of persons and objects the nativity set would likely generate more questions than answers. The only reason we make sense of it, is that we have some knowledge of the narrative of the Christmas story. We have from one source or another been told or exposed to the unique (dare I say, seemingly bizarre) account of the arrival of Jesus Christ.

Let’s take this one step deeper. It is only with the backdrop of the Bible’s account does it all ultimately make sense. From the Bible you learn that these events were recorded in prophecy centuries before the actual events. Scripture provides the back-story of the angelic announcements to yet unmarried Mary and a bewildered Joseph. 

The Word of God will inform you of the Fathers love, the Son’s obedience, the angel’s worship, Mary’s wonder, Joseph’s faith, the shepherd’s diligence, the wise men’s persistence and the world’s Savior.
Maybe it is time for you to get back to the source documents and read about it yourself.  Perhaps you should connect (or reconnect) to find direction for your soul as you are taught the message of the Bible.
If this exercise would cause you to open your Bible or walk into a church, I would consider this effort a great success.
Jesse Waggoner