As you have driven around this month, I am confident that you have seen plenty of nativity sets out on the lawns of churches and Christian homes. If you’re like my family and me, you probably have a nativity set sitting on your mantel or coffee table. I can almost guess your set up. Jesus is front and center lying in a manger, as he should be. Mary and Joseph are kneeled next to him staring at their newborn baby. On one side of the stable is a few shepherds with some sort of various animals. On the other side is three wise men dressed lavishly and each is baring a gift. This is the basic set up to almost every nativity set I have ever seen. In my
In my last post, I discussed the structure in which Mary and Joseph would have stayed: a barn, a cave, a poor family’s home, or the great outdoors. My conclusion was that it was more probable that they found a cave to sleep in, which raises another question: Were Mary and Joseph alone or were there other people with them? According to our nativity scenes, the only other people who might have been there were shepherds and the wise men. However, if Mary and Joseph went to stay in a cave, or a barn, or a house, then it is highly likely that other people fell into the same situation and were staying in the same place. It wasn’t as if Mary and Joseph were the last two people to enter Bethlehem and then they had to go find somewhere else to stay for the night. It is more likely that the census created a rush of people into hometowns that couldn’t accommodate a large number of people. Therefore, many had to take shelter in caves or the lower levels of poor families or wherever they could find shelter. If that is true then Mary and Joseph weren’t alone that night and the good news of the birth of Christ went out to more than just the shepherds.
Luke 2:16-19: “And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” (My emphasis added)
Unless all there in verse 18 means Joseph, then the scripture plainly tells us that it was more than just Mary, Joseph, and Jesus in this cave. The good news the shepherds brought and told was not new unknown to Mary and Joseph. Both of them were told by the angel Gabriel who this child was. Furthermore, verse 19 tells us what Mary did when she heard what the shepherds were saying: she treasured and pondered them. Therefore, it is not just the shepherds who hear the good news from the angels, but the gospel begins to be preached to humanity by the shepherds. The shepherds immediately bear testimony, telling others the good news of Christ’s birth and causing amazement in those who hear.
We celebrate Christmas because, in Christ, hope, love, joy, and peace were brought back into the world. We must not forget this Christmas season that it is because of the cross and empty tomb that we celebrate the manger. If Jesus, son of Joseph and Mary, didn’t go to the cross, and he wasn’t raised from the dead, then he was just an illegitimate Jewish boy born in a cave 2,000 years ago. However, on that night 2,000 years ago, God the Son took on human flesh and pitched his tent among us. We celebrate Christmas because the creator became the created to rescue his creation from sin and death and bring them back into everlasting life. I hope that you will be like the shepherds this Christmas. Go out and tell all the world the good news of Christ’s coming.
Merry Christmas, and may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you!
 Mary is visited by Gabriel in Luke 1, and Joseph is visited by Gabriel in Matthew 1.