John 4:24 (NKJV)
24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
The traditional ‘nativity scene’ depicting the night that Yeshua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) was born is a favorite Christmas decoration and reenactment.
Of course it features Mary, Joseph, the Baby Jesus, the shepherds, and the Magi or ‘wise men’ from the East.
There’s only one problem…
The Magi or ‘wise men’ were not there that night…not yet.
When you read the account closely, the location that the wise men found Jesus was not a stable, and He was not in a manger. He was no longer an infant, and Joseph was not present when the wise men visited.
Matthew 2:11 (NKJV)
11 And when they had come into the HOUSE, they saw the YOUNG CHILD with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Luke 2:15-16 (NKJV)
15 So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.
It says very clearly that they arrived at a house, that Jesus was a young child, and His father wasn’t there at the time. At the scene of the birth Jesus is called a Babe, while at the scene with the wise men He is called a small child.
Notice also that the events recorded in Matthew 2:1-12 took place AFTER Yeshua was born. And, one must consider the took some time…
Matthew 2:1-12 (NKJV)
Now AFTER Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, [a]wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”
3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
5 So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet:
6 ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
Are not the least among the rulers of Judah;
For out of you shall come a Ruler
Who will shepherd My people Israel.’ ”
7 Then Herod, when he had secretly called the [b]wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.”
9 When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. 11 And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
12 Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.
After the LORD was born, the wise men traveled to Jerusalem after seeing the star and inquired of where they could find Jesus…that took some time.
After hearing of this, Herod gathered the chief priests and scribes and asked them where Christ was born…that took some time.
Herod then secretly requested that the wise men come to him. After determining when the star appeared, he asked the wise men to CAREFULLY (take you time) search for the “young child”… that took some time.
After finding the LORD, the wise men didn’t return to Herod, but went straight to their own country, further implying a longer journey…that took some time.
Consider this from my post, “Accepting That Something You’ve Sincerely Believed Is Wrong”…
- According to verses 9-10, when they came to where the star stood over where the YOUNG CHILD was (not baby), they came into THE HOUSE (not stable) and found Jesus with His mother (Joseph wasn’t present at the time).
- According to verse 12, after being warned in a dream, they departed into their own country…you can’t do all of that in one night’s time.
- In verses 16 Herod ordered that all male children age 2 and under be killed…because that’s when the star first appeared.
- After the wise men leave, that’s when Joseph’s name reappears as he takes his family into Egypt.
Some people are so accustomed to believing the wise men were there in the stable, that rather than accept that may not be true and they came later, we start trying to find a way to prove what wish to believe is true…rather than seek the real truth.
The fact is that the shepherds and wise men visited Jesus on two different occasions, possibly separated by about two years.
Many of those who have the traditional nativity scene ingrained in their minds may ask, “What does it matter?”
Again, because God said that anything done to worship Him MUST be done in spirit and not truth. Unfortunately, Christians are notorious for twisting and compromising to fit traditions and their will instead of God’s.
If you’re going to celebrate the Son of God’s birth, do it in SPIRIT AND TRUTH!
The traditional nativity scene is not truth.
Totally agree with your post. And no where do we read there was 3 wise men.
God bless you
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I do understand why in the United States the tradition has become to combine the magi event with the birth narrative. I don’t like it but I do understand it. With Thanksgiving three or four weeks before and then two more holidays a week apart to add another a week after that for the day of Epiphany would be excessive. Instead, for the purposes of decoration we combine them into one scene, wrong though it may be and we all too often combine them in worship as well. In some church Epiphany isn’t celebrated at all. But, it is a real day on the church calendar, the twelfth day after Christmas (saying for those who might not have known the origin of that song title). Early in my ministry I was preaching about the coming of the magi and talked a little about a traditional purpose of the gifts. The tradition said the frankincense was to help to mask the stable odors. I was met at the door and emphatically told the magi didn’t get to the “house” for two years. I wasn’t trying to saying anything like that. Anyway…
One of my pet peeves are, if something is going to be missing from a traditional nativity scene, I will be the shepherds, not the magi. The angels told the shepherds where to go and how to find the one they are looking for and Scripture says they went to find the child. When I bought my set it was missing shepherds but had three kings (as the song goes). One day, in the complete wrong time of the year, my wife and I were shopping in small town central Texas we found a store that sold various Biblical characters. They had lots of angels and shepherds. Well, my set now has shepnerds.
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Thanks so much for sharing!
But does this not point to a flaw in our retelling of the story, instead of a problem with the scene itself. St Francis created the scene in order to tell the story. The wise men are part of the story. It would be so easy to tell the story by removing Mary Joseph and Jesus from the stable and some time later… and continue with the story of Herod and the wise men and further the story to show that from a young age Jesus was a target according to biblical accounts. There is no copyright on the nativity scene, we can change the story. Sure that’s what caused the problem in the first place, but that’s also how we fix it. If you want to be painfully biblical then I think the first question should be, should we even celebrate Christmas, and should we celebrate Christmas to the degree we do when we don’t do the same with other, biblically based festivals and celebrations.