More Than Meets the Eye

   Written by on December 23, 2015 at 11:31 am

During the Christmas season, there are millions of decorations adorning homes, lawns and businesses but the beautiful Nativity scenes set up are the most meaningful.  This reporter never realized the significance of things in a Nativity scene until recently.

logo- community news & viewsThe halo one sees surrounding Mary’s head and the Christ child denote deity, God’s glory.  Jesus’ outstretched arms reflect the invitation to salvation through Him.

The stable referred to in the Gospels was most likely a cave built into the rocks behind the inn, illustrating that God came down to the very heart of earth to dwell among humanity.  Later, the cave would be revered as Christ’s burial place.

This reporter has always liked the sound of “swaddling clothes.” These swaddling clothes foretold Jesus’ burial shroud.

Virgin Mary often is shown in a gown of red, signifying lifeblood. Her mantle of blue represents the sky and heaven, conveying that she is the link between the human and the divine.

Mary is shown with her hands over her heart, alluding to Luke’s account, “But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Luke 2:19

The shepherds represent the common man.  They also reference to David, the shepherd who became king and indicate Christ’s ancestral lineage.  The Good Shepherd gathers lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart.  In Nativity scenes, there is usually a shepherd holding a small lamb.

The Magi that arrive are often depicted as being three different ages; one young, one middle aged and one, elderly, relating to the three stages of life.

As for the gifts of the Magi, gold indicates Christ’s Kingship, incense symbolizes his divinity and myrrh foreshadows His death.

The Magi are usually portrayed as coming from three geographical areas: Asia, Africa and Europe.  These were the known continents of the time.

I never read this before but my research indicated that the Magi might have ridden in on different animals. In all pictures, the three are shown on camels. This theory is that the wise man from Europe rode a horse, the one from Asia came on a camel and the African rode in on an elephant to visit the Christ child.

As far as the stable animals go, the ox and ass illustrate that Christ is the King of all creation, both human and animal.  The ox represents patience and the ass connotes humility.  The animals watched over the Christ child, hovering over Him to warm Him with their breath.

The lambs symbolize purity and point toward Jesus’ sacrificial death upon the cross.  Sometimes a rooster is included as a symbol of vigilance.  If a dog is included in a Nativity scene, it embodies faithfulness and loyalty.

During this Christmas season, check out various Nativity scenes to see what is included in each one.  As you look upon the scene, please remember the symbols I have described.


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