Nativity, the birth of a child, speaks directly to the human heart. Today, even in the midst of the hustle and bustle of our large cities, the presence of an infant brings a smile to the face of passing strangers. A babe in the arms speaks directly to the human heart, invites wonder and restores -perhaps for only a moment- a deep
sense of regard for the creation. This is the gift of recognition, the first "gift" of the
The second gift of the Christmas story is anchored in the human imagination. It is the hope, witnessed throughout human culture and in many historical epochs, that our life, our world, our understanding will be saved from darkness, destruction and death. The longing for a saviour, for a slavific event, tugs at the human heart. The story of the Nativity of Christ expresses the wonder of life and the hope of creation for Christians.
We can read the Christmas story in the Gospel of Matthew and Luke in the Bible and see its narrative expressed in the crèche. At the center is the birth of Jesus, a Greek form of the Hebrew name "Joshua" meaning "Yahweh is Salvation". Christians have given him the title Christ because they came to understand him as the "messiah", the longed for "the anointed one" of the Jewish faith, who would restore life (being, history and the community) to the Creator.
Jesus is born of the Virgin Mary. This portion of the story has signalled for the Christians that Jesus is both the full expression of the human nature and that he is divine. Jesus is often called the Second Adam in Christian writings, a title which speaks of the restoration of "the image and the likeness of God" to the human nature. The Nativity narrative in the Gospels is filled out with the story of two visitations to the place where the babe has been born. The first is the visit of the shepherds, fondly sung about in carol. They come offering the gift of adoration. The second visit is of the three Magi. The gifts they bear, gold, frankincense and myrrh, symbolically herald the gifts of the Christ-child for the healing of the creation.
Regardless of what anyone may personally think or believe about him, Jesus of Nazareth has been the dominant figure in the history of Western culture for almost twenty centuries. If it were possible, with some sort of supermagnet, to pull up out of that history every scrap of metal bearing at least a trace of his name, how much would be left? It is from his birth that most of human race dates its calendars, it is by his name that millions curse and in his name that million pray.
(Jaroslav PELIKAN, Jesus through the Centuries, New Haven: Yale University Press. 1985:1)