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What is the Nativity Story?

You probably know that the Nativity story is the account of the birth of Jesus Christ. You might recognise that the word comes from the Latin natus and, certainly in Britain, you probably came across it as the basis of the annual Christmas drama at junior schools. If you have that background, I expect you could give a brief summary of the narrative.

Given that the underlying story comes from just four chapters of the Bible (the gospels of Matthew and Luke, chapters 1-2 in each case), how well do you know the actual narrative as compared to mangled memories from youthful days when shepherds were distinguished by wearing tea towels on their head?

Here’s a diagram that came out of a conversation last week when we had a friend round and were discussing what we actually knew about the Nativity:

A diagram showing the Nativity story

Nativity – Harmonisation

Unfortunately the green and black are hard to distinguish in this picture. We started with the black text for what we could remember and then highlighted things from Matthew (red) and Luke (green). Most of Matthew’s points are covered (although I think the average school play misses out Herod’s slaughter of the innocents and the Holy Family’s escape to Egypt) but Luke has some wonderful stories about lovely, devoted people – Zacharias, Elizabeth, Simeon and Anna – which tend to fall entirely off the radar.

With Christmas almost upon us, now is a good time to spend a few minutes reading the two original stories and comparing that with your mental model of the plot. Tomorrow I’ll post the other diagram I did, showing the separate plots of Matthew and Luke rather than weaving them together.

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