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Nativity

Nativity by Lewis Williams, OFS

Artist Narrative:

This image shows the Holy Family in adoration and thanks at Jesus’ birth. Joseph is suggested on his knees with his hands in prayer. Mary hugs her husband in celebration of the birth while reaching towards her son: the light has exploded the darkness. The world is forever changed.

“Now we may love the child. Now he is ours, this tiny thing, utterly vulnerable and dependent on the circle of our love. Now we may hold him, feeling with gentle hands the perfection of his tender skin from the soft crown of his head to the sweet soles of his merrily kicking feet … Now may my husband toss him in the air and catch him in his sure and steady hands laughing with laughter as quick and pure as the baby’s own. Now may I rock him softly to his sleep, rock and sing, sing and hold. This moment of time is here, has happened, IS: REJOICE! Child, give me the courage for the time when I must open my arms and let you go.”

Quote from Madeleine L’Engle, The Irrational Season,1977.

Dedicated to all the families suffering from the terrorist attacks in Paris, France November 16, 2015.

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The Nativity of Jesus, also called simply The Nativity, refers to the accounts of the birth of Jesus in the gospels of Luke and Matthew, and secondarily on some apocryphal texts.

The canonical gospels of Luke and Matthew both describe Jesus as born in Bethlehem in Judea, to a virgin mother. In the Gospel of Luke account, Joseph and Mary travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem for the census, and Jesus is born there and laid in a manger. Angels proclaim him a savior for all people, and shepherds come to adore him. In the Matthew account, astronomers follow a star to Bethlehem to bring gifts to Jesus, born the King of the Jews. King Herod orders the massacre of all the boys less than two years old in Bethlehem, but the family flees to Egypt and later settles in Nazareth.

Gospel of Matthew:

The Nativity appears in chapters 1 and 2 of the Gospel of Matthew, in which Matthew places special emphasis on the origins of the names of the child. Two specific passages, namely from 1:21–23, have theological significance in that they refer to the names Jesus and Emmanuel.

Following Joseph and Mary's betrothal in Matthew 1:18, Joseph is troubled in Matthew 1:19–20 because Mary is pregnant. However, in the first of Joseph's three dreams an angel assures him not be afraid to take Mary as his wife, because her child was conceived by the Holy Spirit.

The angel's message to Joseph in Matthew 1:21 includes the origin of the name Jesus and has salvific implications when the angel instructs Joseph: "you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins". It is the only place in the New Testament where "saves his people" appears with "sins".

Scholars have debated whether the quote in Matthew 1:22–23 is spoken by the angel or by Matthew. However, Matthew 1:23 does provide the basis for the use of the name Emmanuel. The name Emmanuel (from the Hebrew words: אֵל '’El, i.e.," God" and עִמָּנוּ i.e., Immānū, "with us") is related to Isaiah 7:14 and is one of almost a dozen cases in his Gospel where, while discussing Jesus as the fulfillment of prophecies, Matthew points back to one of the prophets.

In Matthew 2:1–2 the Star of Bethlehem reveals the birth of Jesus to a number (traditionally three) of Magi, (Greek μάγος', "astrologer"), commonly translated as "wise man", who travel to Jerusalem from an unspecified country "in the east".

The Magi go to see Herod the Great and ask, "Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him." Herod asks his advisers where the Messiah was to be born. They answer, "Bethlehem" , the birthplace of King David, and quote the prophet Micah (Matthew 2:4–6). Herod tells the Magi to go to Bethlehem and to report back to him when they have found the child. As the Magi travel to Bethlehem, the star "goes before" them and leads them to a house where they find and adore Jesus. They present Jesus with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh (in Matthew 2:9-11).

In a dream, the Magi receive a divine warning of Herod's intent to kill the baby Jesus, whom he sees as a rival. Consequently, the magi return to their own country without telling Herod where to find Jesus. An angel tells Joseph to flee with his family to Egypt. Meanwhile, Herod orders that all male children of Bethlehem under the age of two be killed, an event traditionally called the "Massacre of the Innocents". Herod's statement in Matthew 2:16–18, referring to boys two years or younger, suggests that the Magi arrived in Bethlehem a number of months after Jesus' birth.

After Herod's death, Jesus' family returns from Egypt, but they are afraid to return to Bethlehem because Herod's son rules Judea. Instead they move to Galilee and settle in Nazareth, fulfilling, according to the author, a prophecy: "He will be called a Nazarene".

Gospel of Luke:

The Nativity is a prominent element of the Gospel of Luke, and comprises over 10% of the text. It is three times the length of the Nativity text in the Gospel of Matthew and in itself longer than several of the books of the New Testament. Luke does not rush into the birth of Jesus, but prepares for the event by narrating several episodes prior to Jesus'. Luke's Gospel includes an account of the birth of John the Baptist using it to draw parallels between the births of John and Jesus.

Luke draws parallels between the angelic visit (1:5–25) to Zechariah about the birth of John and the Annunciation to Mary (1:26–38) about the birth of Jesus, and between the Song of Zechariah (1:57–80) about John and the Song of Simeon (2:1–40) about Jesus. However, while Luke devotes only two verses (1:57–58) to the birth of John, the birth of Jesus is narrated in twenty verses (2:1–20). Luke relates the two births in the visitation of Mary to Elizabeth and states that Mary and Elizabeth are cousins. There is no mention of a family relationship between John and Jesus in the other Gospels, and the scholar Raymond E. Brown has described it as "of dubious historicity". Géza Vermes calls it "artificial and undoubtedly Luke's creation".

In the Gospel of Luke, Mary learns from the angel Gabriel that she will conceive and bear a child called Jesus. When she asks how this can be, since she is a virgin, he tells her the Holy Spirit would "come upon her" and "nothing will be impossible with God". She responds: "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word." Later, Mary visits her relative Elizabeth, who is pregnant with John the Baptist. John leaps in his mother's womb, recognizing the presence of Jesus, the Messiah.

When Mary is due to give birth, she and Joseph travel from Nazareth to Joseph's ancestral home in Bethlehem to register in the census of Quirinius (as in Luke 2:2). In Bethlehem, Mary gives birth to Jesus and, having found no place for themselves in the inn, places the newborn in a manger.

An angel of the Lord visits the shepherds and brings them "good news of great joy": "to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord." The angel tells them they will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger. The angel is joined by a "heavenly host" who say "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors. The shepherds hurry to the stable in Bethlehem where they find Jesus with Mary and Joseph. They repeat what the angel has told them, and then they return to their flocks. Mary and Joseph take Jesus to Jerusalem to be circumcised, before returning to their home in Nazareth.