According to the Bible and to Holy Tradition, Jesus was born in the city of Bethlehem in a cave, surrounded by farm animals and shepherds. The baby Jesus was born into a manger from the Virgin Mary, assisted by her husband St. Joseph. St. Joseph and the Theotokos were forced to travel due to a Roman census; the odd location of the birth was the result of the refusal of a nearby inn to accommodate the expecting couple.
Though three magi from the East are commonly depicted to have visited the event, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, the Bible records the coming of an unspecified number of wise men as being a few years after Jesus' birth. In the hymnography for the feast, these gifts are interpreted to signify Christ's royalty, divinity, and suffering.
Though Jesus' birth is celebrated on December 25, most scholars agree that it is unlikely he was actually born on this date. The choice of December 25 for the Church's celebration of the Nativity is most likely to have been in order to squelch attendance at pagan solstice festivals falling on the same day.
- Your Nativity, O Christ our God,
- Has shone to the world the Light of wisdom!
- For by it, those who worshipped the stars,
- Were taught by a Star to adore You,
- The Sun of Righteousness,
- And to know You, the Orient from on High.
- O Lord, glory to You!
Kontakion (Tone 3)
- Today the Virgin gives birth to the Transcendent One,
- And the earth offers a cave to the Unapproachable One!
- Angels with shepherds glorify Him!
- The wise men journey with a star!
- Since for our sake the Eternal God was born as a Little Child!