The story of Christ's birth is miraculous. But it is more than a story; it is a historical fact. It is one of the few Bible stories that is universally known, but the common retelling differs from the original narrative. Aspects of the biblical account have been fictionalized and the alterations are regarded as fact.
"And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn." (Luke 2:7)
Christ is always depicted as being born in a stable. But if you were to examine Luke's entire chronicle, he does not mention a stable even once. A manger is a food trough for animals and since He was laid in a manger, it is assumed that He must have been born in a stable. An old tradition suggests He was born in a cave (The MacArthur Study Bible, page 1481, note on 2:7). Since Scripture does not expressly state the place, no one can be certain whether it was or wasn't a stable. I have no qualms if someone portrays His birthplace as in a stable, because there's no proof He wasn't. All we know is that He wasn't born in the inn. However, all this should be taken in consideration, remembering tradition isn't necessarily fact. Regardless of His birthplace, there is a part of the nativity scene that is undoubtedly falsified.
"Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, 'Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.' When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They said to him, 'In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet: "And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the leaders of Judah; for out of you shall come forth a Ruler who will shepherd My people Israel." ' Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, 'Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him.' After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh." (Matt. 2:1-11)
Three elements are wrong with the three kings. First, as the account above shows, the number of the men isn't cited. They brought three different gifts, hence the notion of three men giving them. Maybe there were three—or four, or five, or ten—but since time machines haven't been invented for us to travel back and ask them, it's best if we remain silent as to their number.
Secondly, they weren't kings. Matthew repeatedly refers to them as "magi"—never "kings." I don't think Matthew would have insulted a king by simply calling him a magi. Therefore, the song We Three Kings should be more accurately rendered, We Wise Men.
Lastly, they did not arrive immediately after Jesus's birth. He was probably at least a few months old when they visited Him. Joseph and Mary had taken a more permanent residence in a house (v. 11), indicating time had elapsed. Herod must have thought Jesus was older than a newborn since he ordered all male babies under two executed (v. 16).
These modifications to the story of Christ's birth might seem inconsequential. After all, they don't attack any major biblical doctrines. But the smallest deviation stains the pure tablet of truth and breaks its authority.
Another reason is that it poses a great danger to the youthful mind. Ken Ham found that those who attended Sunday school were more prone to be antichurch because their teachers were presenting the Bible in the same manner a person would tell Hansel and Gretal, Cinderella, and other fanciful stories ("Going, Going...Gone," Answers Magazine, July/Aug./Sept. 2011, page 125). We should never fictionalize any Bible passage; it could have dire consequences. Charles Spurgeon wrote “Let us never teach even the least error to a little child, for it may live on and become a great heresy long after we are dead” (C.H. Spurgeon, Commentary on Matthew: The Gospel of the Kingdom, 440).
Cute little elves don't exist, but angels do. Santa may not deliver gifts, but God bestows us with the gift of salvation. Even though we shouldn't tell The Night Before Christmas as if it were fact, that shouldn't keep us from spreading the true Christmas story! How could St. Nick’s presents ever compare with God’s gift
Mariposa is a self-taught artist who captures the glories of God's creation on canvas. She has a Ph.D. in creativity and a masters degree in imagination.
Aberdeen is a book-eating, ink-drinking dinosaur from the createtus period. When he isn't falling into plot holes or taking cover from the volcano of ideas, he's hanging out with Dee-Dee the doodledactyl. Read full bio