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The Real (Nativity) Deal

Many myths have crept into the birth story of Jesus. So letís go through the Bible and read the Real Nativity Story.

Matthew contains the story of the Magi (3 Wise Men/3 Kings); Luke contains the angelís visit to Mary and the shepherds: the two stories are combined into one. Also, the verses or partial verses are given after the quote; "M" stands for Matthew and "L" for Luke. I will put educated guesses about how situations could have worked out in brackets. Here we go:

God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth . . . to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph. (L 1:26, 27) But before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. . . . Joseph . . . had in mind to divorce her quietly. (M 1:18, 19) [Maybe because she could have been stoned to death, Leviticus 20:10.] Joseph went to sleep one night and an angel told Joseph what happened, and to marry Mary.  When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him (in a dream) and took Mary home as his wife. (M 1:24)

Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken . . . Joseph and Mary also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem. . . . While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (L 2:1-7) [First, the Bible does not say they spoke to an innkeeper. They might have spoken to one, or maybe saw a sign outside the inn, or someone told them. Second, it does not say that Jesus was born in a stable, only that he was laid in a manger. This means that Mary could have given birth in a stable or in a cave. The stable idea originated because mangers held food for animals, and animals usually lived in stables; mangers were found anywhere there were animals.  And Israel has many caves, so it could have been in a cave.]

And there were shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks at night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them . . . When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Letís go to Bethlehem." (L 2:8-15) [And the shepherds went that night. They were able to see Jesus when He was less than 24 hours old. The little drummer boy wasnít there, that is a made-up story from the middle of the 1900s.]

After Jesus was born in the village of Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?" (M 2:1, 2) [They didnít go to Herod, they just showed up asking questions.] Then Herod . . . sent them to Bethlehem. (M 2:7, 8) [The Magi did not know Jesus was to be born in Bethlehem, Herod found out from priests and then told the Magi. (M 2:3-6)]

On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary. (M 2:11) [Note that they came to a house. The Magi saw the star either when Mary conceived or when Jesus was born. By the time they got to Jesus, months had passed, we donít know how many, maybe up to 2 years (M2:16). But enough time so that the Holy Family had moved to a house. And whose house was it? Probably not theirís since Joseph was a poor man. Joseph probably had relatives in Bethlehem and moved in with them right after Jesus was born. This is just a guess! But the Magi did visit Jesus much later than did the shepherds and while he lived in a house.]

Note: They gave Jesus gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, which is well because Joseph, Mary, and Jesus were getting ready to travel quickly to Egypt and would need the gold for traveling expenses.

©2007 Mark Nickens

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