Millions Adore the Newborn Babe
ON DECEMBER 24, 1223, the 42-year-old Francis of Assisi (who was later canonized by the Roman Catholic Church) constructed in a church in Greccio, Italy, a model of the infant Jesus laid in a manger, or crib. Around the manger he placed figures representing Joseph and Mary, the shepherds who came to see the infant Jesus, an ass and an ox. A few hours later, at midnight, Francis’ model of the nativity scene became the focal point of the Christmas Mass.
Since then the use of the crib in the celebration of Christmas has spread over all the world. Many, even today, despite the rank commercialism of Christmas, still feel sentimental and nostalgic during the Christmas season. They find something beautiful in the sights and sounds of wide-eyed children singing carols, the decorated Christmas tree, the excitement of gift-giving, the memory of the angelic announcement “Upon earth peace among men of goodwill” and, in the center of it all, that sweet and helpless infant lying quietly in a manger.—Luke 2:14, 16.
Of course, most people know by now that the trappings of Christmas are more pagan than Christian. Encyclopedias available in most public libraries show that the feasting and gift-giving are hand-me-downs from the pagan Roman Saturnalia. The holly, mistletoe and decorated Christmas tree come from northern European paganism. Even the date, December 25, was not when Jesus was born. Rather, it was the date that the worshipers of Mithra celebrated the birth of the “unconquered sun.”
But the nativity scene? Well, according to the Bible, the “wise men,” or eastern astrologers—who are sometimes represented in Christmas scenes as being present at the manger—never made it to the actual place where Jesus was born. They arrived later, when Joseph and Mary were already living in a house. (Matt. 2:1-11) However, Jesus was laid in a manger after his birth. Shepherds did come to see him, and angels in the heavens did sing, “Glory in the heights above to God, and upon earth peace among men of goodwill.”—Luke 2:8-14.
That tiny infant, born in Bethlehem nearly 2,000 years ago, has become the most famous baby in history. The account of his birth, as recorded in the Bible, has been published around the world. To millions of people, Jesus is still thought of as a babe in a manger.
Do you feel that this is proper? Should we still think of Jesus as a helpless babe lying in a manger? What does the Bible indicate?