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  • Bonnie Chovanec

The Manger Scene

Updated: Dec 11, 2020

December 6


What do you picture when you hear the words “Manger Scene” or “Nativity Play”? A stable with Mary, Joseph, a baby in a manger, some shepherds and 3 wise men. Do you know that most of that is wrong? The story of the most important birth of all time got messed up along the way. Not that it matters in the long run – Jesus, the King of all kings, came to save the world. And He fulfilled His mission. But it is still interesting to hear the facts.

First of all, Mary and Joseph did NOT rush into Bethlehem at the last second as her baby was about to be born. They had plenty of time to get settled with relatives. Luke 2:6 tells us that “while they were in Bethlehem, the days were completed for her to give birth”, indicating a length of time. There also were no inns in tiny towns like Bethlehem – they were found in big cities or along main roads. The word used for “inn” actually means “guest room in a home”. So, the famous “there was no room at the inn” simply means, the spare bedroom was full at Uncle So-&-so’s house, which leads us to the manger.

At that time, the stable was part of the family home. The heat from the animals helped to keep the house warm at night. People were too poor to be able to afford extra land, so it was a win win. Mangers were either boxes made of wood or hollowed out stones from which the animals ate from. Perfect to cradle a newborn.

Shepherds were a sorry bunch. Lowest of lows, always dirty. Not a job one would choose, typically. They were looked down on by almost everyone in a society where the Sabbath (the Jewish day of worship) was of utmost importance. Because the shepherds were always out in the fields, away from town, they would miss the Sabbath traditions and therefore were seen as sinners and “unclean”. But God chose lowly shepherds to be the first hear about the birth of the long awaited Messiah.

Then there are the wise men – scripture never tells us how many there were – it seems that three was accepted because of the three gifts that were brought. The scriptures tell us that they came to a house to visit the child. The word used is not baby, indicating that this wasn’t Christmas Eve. Ancient writings other than the Bible tell us that many magi came, bearing expensive gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh – they were scholars who studied the night skies and often traveled to attend the birth or the crowning of a king. These were important wealthy men, not Jews like the shepherds. God was covering all the bases.

This famous story of Christmas teaches us that it doesn’t matter who you are, or what you’ve done, you are acceptable to God because of his Son, Jesus. It shows us that no matter what the circumstances are, God will provide what you need. Merry Christmas to you!


Luke 2: 6-7

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 guest room available for them.

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