The traditional icon style of the Nativity of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is from the 15th century, and attributed to Rublev. It depicts the Creator of the Universe entering history as a newborn babe. The icon of the Nativity also shows us the effect of this event on the natural life of the world.
The background is an inhospitable world, the world since our expulsion from Paradise. In the center of the Icon are Mary, as the central figure depicted disproportionately large, resting at a cave, and Jesus as a baby in a manger wrapped in swaddling clothes. Around the Icon is much that deals with the Incarnation of Christ, they are explained below.
The Icon has much symbolism. The little helpless figure in swaddling clothes represents the complete submission of Christ in the physical conditions governing the human race.
The earth provides Him with a cave. The animals watch Him in silent wonder and we humans offer Him one of us, the Virgin Mother. His manger is like a casket and his swaddling clothes are very much like the grave clothes. He was born to die!
The sky salutes Him with a star, the light of wisdom. A sign that Christ came for everyone, "For by it, those who worshipped the stars, were taught by a star to adore Thee, the Sun of Righteousness, and to know Thee, the Orient on high." Some Icons have three rays from the star, representing the Holy Trinity.
The Magi and the shepherds bring their gifts, also a sign that Christ came for everyone.
The women on the bottom right are midwives. This indicates that Jesus was born in the normal way and would have needed washing, as a regular human baby would.
Old Testament prophecy
Below the center are a tree, an ox , and an ass. The tree is the "Jesse Tree" from prophesy, which says that a shoot will sprout from the stump of Jesse (the father of King David) “A shoot shall sprout from the stump (tree) of Jesse and from his roots a bud shall blossom. The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him