The Nativity of Jesus

The Nativity of Jesus, or simply The Nativity, refers to the accounts of the birth of Jesus. The traditional accounts appear in the Canonical gospels in the New Testament of the Bible. Various apocryphal texts also mention it. It is the basis of Christmas, which is an important holyday observed by Christians worldwide.

The accounts of the Nativity in the New Testament appear in only two of the four Canonical gospels, namely the Gospel of Luke and the Gospel of Matthew. Events preceding the birth of Jesus, e.g. The Annunciation to Mary and the visitation of Mary to Elizabeth appear almost entirely in the Gospel of Luke. The account of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem appears in both the Gospels of Matthew and Luke - which also includes the Adoration of the Shepherds by itself. The follow on events such as the Adoration of the Magi and the Flight into Egypt appear mostly in the Gospel of Matthew. The Quran, like the gospels, places the virgin birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.

Modern scholars have questioned the historicity of the gospel texts, their completeness and consistency, e.g. the references to dates in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke with respect to the death of Herod the Great and the Census of Quirinius, the text's prophecy that "He will be called a Nazorean" and the reference to Isaiah. Scholars have also suggested solutions for the resolution of these issues.

Christian theology regards the Nativity as an event of cosmic significance through which the Incarnation of Jesus as a "new man" undid the damage caused by the fall of the first man, Adam. In this teaching, in contrast to Adam, Jesus acted as an obedient Son in the fulfillment of the divine will and was therefore free from sin and could hence reveal the righteousness of God the Father and bring about salvation. The theology of the Nativity has had Christological implications from the earliest days of Christianity and the initial debates resulted in early schisms in the church by the 5th century.

The depiction of the Nativity scene in the 13th century was a major turning point in the development of a new "tender image of Jesus" in addition to the Kyrios image as the "Lord and Master" which had been prevalent since the early days of Christianity. As the Franciscans began to emphasize the humility of Jesus both at his birth and his death, the supplementation of the tender joys of his Nativity to the agony of his crucifixion ushered in a whole new range of religious emotions which had wide ranging cultural impacts on Christianity.

The artistic depiction of the Nativity has been a major subject for Christian artists since the 4th century. It has been depicted in many different media, both pictorial and sculptural. The largest body of musical works about Christ in which he does not speak are about it. A large body of liturgical music, as well as a great deal of para-liturgical texts, carols, and folk music exist about it. Christmas carols have come to be viewed as a cultural-signature of it.

The main religious celebration among members of the Catholic Church and other Christian groups is the mass on Christmas Eve or on the morning of Christmas Day. During the forty days leading up to Christmas, the Eastern Orthodox Church practices the Nativity Fast, while the majority of Christian congregations (including the Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion, many Mainline churches, and Baptists) begin observing the liturgical season of Advent four Sundays before Christmas—both are seen as times of spiritual cleansing, recollection and renewal to prepare for the celebration of the birth of Jesus.


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