Our nativity scene always went under the Christmas tree, usually with a backdrop of whatever we had created that year for scenery. The nativity figurines were made in my brother’s scout group. And for something that had been hand made by a seven year old, they were really quite spectacular.
Eventually, the nativity scene stopped making its annual appearance. I was never really sure why. Some of the pieces had been chipped over time and there was an overall faded quality to them, but I thought for the most part they still looked good.
The nativity scene is typically one that is familiar to all, even those who don’t celebrate Christmas. Figurines of Mary and Joseph usually accompanied by a baby Jesus placed in a manger sit stoically inside the stable. Three wise men look on, and ours came with a host of barnyard animals and an angel to oversee everything.
Our figures were made to mimic pewter, but they come in just about any medium from glass to plastic to wood or ceramic. I used to get in trouble for acting out the Christmas story with the figures, which to this day I’m not really convinced was all that blasphemous, since I was only having them act out the birth of Jesus and didn’t venture into other areas of play acting.
Either way, the figures were considered sacred and my play acting days were drawn to an expedient close. The term nativity actually means “the birthplace of,” so when we speak of the Nativity Scene, we are simply referring to the birthplace of Jesus. And of course we realize that the birthplace of Jesus was in Bethlehem, although he was of course, Jesus of Nazareth.
And the story goes, that while Mary was indeed blessed with child through immaculate conception, there was no place for her to give birth to Jesus. Mary and Joseph had searched far and wide before finding the stable that would be the place of the miraculous birth. Critical atheists believe that this could not have been, as there was little to authenticate Mary’s story of innocence.
Despite critics and skeptics, Christians believe that the wise men were called via a star in the sky, who sought out the child who was to become king of the Jews. In fact, these wise men are believed to have entered Jerusalem in search of the birth place of Jesus. The news was thought to have struck fear into the heart of King Herod, and he sent in question all that could find the birth place of this child.
Shepherds in a nearby field were said to receive a visit from the angel of the Lord, announcing the birth of Jesus. When told of the promises Jesus could fulfill, the shepherds rushed to find the stable that the infant was born in to revel in his earthly presence.
Again, critics voice their discomfort in the story, stating that angelic visitation is nothing more than a hallucination. It has been stated by critics and atheists alike that if by today’s standards an angelic visitation would be considered either a lie, a plea for attention, or a sign of hallucinations caused by drugs or mental illness, then how can it be considered acceptable as fact from a time when there was little documentation or proof?
Defenders of the nativity story say that it was all true because there is concrete evidence for those who look for it. There are those that even believe that the remains of the ark of the covenant have been discovered. They are simply waiting for the funds to begin an archeological dig.
The nativity will forever have those who discount it as fairy tale and legend and those who call it gospel. Cold, hard, irrefutable fact has yet to be unearthed, though the faithful will tell you that is exactly what makes faith what it is. There are aspects of faith that you simply have to take as faith facts. Regardless of personal beliefs, the nativity scene is something that nearly everyone understands and enjoys, either as a statement of faith or as a blessed fairy tale filled with hope.