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Tuesday, November 28, 2017

20+ Nativity Books That Tell the Real Story

20 Nativity Books that tell the Real Story

Contrary to the popular Christmas carol, three kings did not visit a newborn Jesus in Bethlehem. While Scripture refers to them as magi, or wise men, it gives no indication that they were kings. Instead, it refers to them as educated men who came from the East, possibly the direction of Babylon or Persia. Some theologians speculate that they were from a similar order of philosophers and foreign priests as those in Daniel's day. They were obviously interested in signs of the heavens and were willing to travel a great distance to follow the clues given in the stars and the Old Testament (specifically Numbers 24:17) to find a child who was "born King of the Jews."

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Adding to the noisy narrative, most story books also portray three magi riding on camels to visit a newborn on the night of His birth. But, those story books paint a twisted truth. Matthew 2:1-2 makes it clear that the men brought three gifts. But to assume that there were only three gift givers is rather illogical considering the nomadic caravan customs of the day. During the middle ages, the bodies of three "wise men" were found and attributed to the Nativity story. They were later named Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar. But again, there's nothing to support that in Scripture. The arrival of three lone men would not have captured the attention of Herod, but a host of foreign men, servants, and animals would have.

And camels? Admittedly, there is a certain amount of romance added to the story when camels get tossed into it. But, the Gospels never tell what (if anything) the wisemen rode across the desert. Maybe they walked. Highly unlikely, of course. But the point is, no one knows for sure. What we do know, however, is that these star gazers appeared to a young child (2 years old or younger due to Herod's death decree) at a house. Cultural practices of the day lead us to believe that the cave-like stable where Christ was born was probably attached to the house. Whether this was the place of introductions or not, remains another mystery. (Matthew 2:9-11)

From the presence of the innkeeper to the donkey that Mary rode, much has been added to the story by our human imagination.

So, how did the the story get so jumbled? When did a fact become a fabrication? I can't answer that. What I can do, however, is ensure that my children know the real story of Christ's birth, or at least the parts held out to us in Scripture. I can read the Nativity passages of Matthew 1-2 and Luke 2, fill in some historical and cultural information as needed, and do my best to supply story books that don't add or detract from the Truth. I can tell this generation about the person and character of the Christ of Christmas in order that the next generation might know too.

"So the next generation might know them – even the children not yet born – and they in turn will teach their own children." Psalm 78:6 NLT
While there's many Christmas themed picture books on the market, there aren't many that get it right. Here's a list of Nativity-themed books that come pretty close.*

A Christmas Journey by Susie Poole
Bright Christmas: An Angel Remembers by Andrew Clements
Mary, Did You Know? by Mark Lowry
My First Story of Christmas by Tim Dowley
Nativity by Cynthia Rylant
One Wintry Night by Ruth Bell Graham
Room for a Little One: A Christmas Tale by Martin Waddell
Song of the Stars by Sally Lloyd-Jones
The Birds of Bethlehem by Tomie dePaola
The Christmas Promise by Alison Mitchell
The Christmas Story Board Book by Julie Downing
The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado
The First Christmas by Robbie Trent
The First Night by B.G. Hennessy
The Friendly Beasts by Rebecca St. James
The Nativity Story by Stephanie Voiland
The Night the Angels Sang by Concordia Publishing House
The Stable Where Jesus Was Born by Rhonda Gowler Greene
The Story of Christmas by Pamela Dalton
When Joy Came by Pauline Palmer Meek


Most Nativity picture books today just add to the cultural ignorance of the true story of Christmas. They feed the "man on the street" answers that you see on late night television. But, I want my kids to know what actually happened on the night of Christ's birth, not what Hollywood, department stores, or misguided children's book authors have to say. One day the missing pieces of Christ's birth will be put together. The WHAT IFs and WHYs will all be answered. For now, I'm content to wrap all the known facts with simple faith as I tell the next generation of the Word made Flesh.

*While you may find magi traveling on camels in a few of these books, you'll not see them visiting a newborn in a manger. Some of these might picture three men, but none specifically mention the fact that there were only three. 

3 comments:

  1. According to the Scriptures, the most logical assumption is that the Wise Men came and saw Him before He was 8 days old. At 8 days old, His parents took Him to Jerusalem to be presented in the Temple and then went home to Nazareth.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I misread your comment and saw "8 years old," and was instantly thinking, "No, that's not right."

      Delete
    2. Perhaps, but again, Scripture doesn't say that. I guess the main point to make clear to children is that the wisemen did not come that first night.

      Delete

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