The Birth of Christ has always been celebrated and hymned by Christians, as it is central to the Faith. He has become one of us; and not just as a fully-grown man descended from Heaven, but in humility God is born of a woman, and comes to us as a tiny, speechless, infant. This is what is shown in the Nativity Icon.  

The child-Christ and His mother are shown in a cave, surrounded by impossibly sharp, inhospitable, rocks which reflect the cruel world into which Jesus was born. The Gospels record that Joseph and Mary could not find a room at any inn when they came to take part in the census at Bethlehem, and so Jesus was laid in a manger, an animal’s feeding trough. Common to the time, animals were not sheltered in wooden barns, but in caves and recesses in the hills, and so this “stable” is shown in the Icon.

High in the skies is a star which sends down a single shaft towards the baby Jesus. On the right, the angels bringing the glad tidings of the birth of the world’s Savior. On the left, the shepherds – people not regarded by anyone else – are the first to be given the Good News of Jesus’ birth.

Besides His mother and Joseph, the only company Jesus Christ has in the first few hours of His earthly life are a lowly ox and donkey. This is the humility of God’s incarnation on earth. The presence of the Ox and the Donkey in the Nativity icon fulfills one of many prophecies in the Old Testament book of Isaiah:“The ox knows his owner, and the donkey his master’s crib”(Isaiah 1:3) . Here the animals are also shown providing warmth to Jesus by their breath.

As we look at the icon as one united composition, we can only be filled with joy, for the joyous news of our salvation so clearly proclaimed by it. All creation is rejoicing at the birth of our Lord: the heavens (a star and angels); the earth (the mountains, and animals); and especially mankind, represented most perfectly in the figure of the new Eve, the most pure Mother of God.

Christ is born! Glorify Him!