The Christmas story may be the most familiar story from the Bible, yet if asked to tell it, most people would get many details wrong! The story most of us "know" often represents an amalgam of biblical and secular tales. Was there really a little drummer boy? Did the innkeeper really send Mary and Joseph to sleep in the stable? Was Jesus born at midnight on December 25th? Did the angels lead the shepherds to the manger? Why were gold, frankincense, and myrrh appropriate gifts for a baby?!
In many instances, even when we get some of the details wrong, the concepts they represent remain appropriate and meaningful to us as Christians. So, while the Bible may not mention the presence of sheep or oxen in the manger or confirm camels as the mode of transportation for the magi (sometimes translated as wise men), there is significance to our inclusion of them in contemporary nativity scenes.
We will also address the pros and cons of public displays of nativity scenes in general. Whether biblically grounded or not, the various elements of the nativity scene hold great symbolism for Christians, yet non-Christians often seem to be threatened or otherwise bothered by their display.
Gifts, on the other hand, we all like! In session four, we'll examine the origin and meaning of gift-giving to celebrate Christ's birth. In particular, we'll look carefully at the gifts the magi bring, and the story of Jesus' birth that surrounds them. We'll discover why in the world these gifts are valuable to a baby, and what they might mean in light of the life we know Jesus will lead. Then we will look inside ourselves: What gift might we bring to the Christ child since we know the end of his story?
Exploring the details of the nativity story will inform and enhance our appreciation of the season of Advent.
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