Thursday, December 2, 2010

Nativity Unplugged

We have a nativity scene, a really nice nativity scene that we purchased from Sam’s Wholesale Club over five years ago. My husband is a Church History professor who has taught Old and New Testament survey courses for over eleven years. If he is teaching New Testament during the winter term there is always an extra credit question; “How many Wise Men were at the manger?”

Do you know the correct answer?

Zero. They were not at the manger; they were in their own countries taking notice of a new star. References include Matthew 2:11 which says of the Magi arriving at Mary and Joseph’s, “On coming to the house”, not the manger. Further, in Matthew 2:16 is the reference of age concerning the new King of the Jews King Herod ordered killed, “those who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.”

If the Wise Men were not at the manger scene why do we put them there? My guess, for those selling nativities it’s a merchandising decision, for all the others it allows for more roles in the Christmas pageant.

I don’t have a problem with the Wise Men standing next to the new born savior but professors, such as my husband, find it very annoying. We are misleading generations.

Long standing traditions are difficult to change, especially societal traditions. Our solution, we put the Wise Men on an opposite surface and make an effort to explain their position.

The Wise Men are a large part of the Christmas story, include them in their proper place. Wishing you and yours a blessed holiday season.


  1. You know, I never knew that fact until about 15 years ago when our pastor taught on it. I was amazed that I didn't and had thought they were there. It bothers me now to put them out with it each year but I put them apart and it makes me feel better:)

  2. I put the wisemen away from the manger too. I thought I was the only one who did that. :)

  3. I have received a mixed review on moving the Wise Men away from the manger. Cultural tradition has a strong pull.

  4. I love this. Although many of us know that the wise men weren't there it is so easy to think of them being there when you have them out with the Nativity scene. Thanks for the reminder! :)

  5. How interesting! I had no idea...wonder why I never learned that fact at church? Now that I think of it, I usually have the wise men journeying toward the manger of my nativity, not actually there. Perhaps I did learn that at some point and kept it in my subconscious. Hmmm...

  6. Lisa, I expect you did know that at one time. Most Christians, when closly questioned, seem to remember hearing that at some time.