Let every heart prepare him room, and heaven and nature sing.
That’s a lovely nativity set, isn’t it? Like most, however, it compresses three separate events into one:
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:1-7 KJV)
While some would discount the biblical narrative, in “Antiquities”, the historian Josephus wrote:
Now Cyrenius, a Roman senator, and one who had gone through other magistracies, and had passed through them till he had been consul, and one who, on other accounts, was of great dignity, came at this time into Syria, with a few others, being sent by Caesar to be a judge of that nation, and to take an account of their substance.
Once again, history confirms an item in the Bible. There isn’t a historical backing for this, though:
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. (Luke 2:8-14 KJV)
Multiple Jewish prophecies tell us a male (Isaiah 9:6) of David’s lineage (Isaiah 9:7, Jeremiah 23:5) would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2); that He would be a man of sorrow, acquainted with grief, despised by many (Isaiah 53:3). There are many others.
And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. (Luke 2:15-16 KJV)
Our nativity scene above does not include shepherds, but perhaps the angel denotes that portion of the story. There were no magi at the manger, either:
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet (Micah 5:2), And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. (Matthew 2:1-6 KJV)
Those who recognized the prophecy, shared it with others, then promptly returned to their daily routines, are among us today. The wise men, however, sought and found Him:
When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. (Matthew 2:9-11 KJV)
They came to a house, not a manger. This is why, when the family manger scene is set up, Mary, Joseph, shepherds and animals are around the child in the manger – and the wise men with their camels are across the room, still on their journey.
Share the message the angels and wise men brought –
Joy to the world, the Lord is come!