The icon of THE NATIVITY OF CHRIST is located in the north apse wall in the nave and its meaning is as follows (the numbers on the drawing of the icon correspond to the numbered tabs below the drawing which you may click to learn more):
The Mother of God, holding the new-born Saviour Christ, as He lies in a manger. He is wrapped in swaddling clothes, like a corpse is wrapped for burial in a manger that resembles a tomb. He is born in a dark cave, also like a sepulchre. He was born to die for us and the iconography of the feast, although joyous, reminds us of this. The Mother of God lies upon a great mattress, such as the people of those times took with them when traveling.
The Ox and Donkey, although not mentioned in the Gospel, are always included in the imagery of the icon, to remind us that the words of the prophet Isaiah have been fulfilled when he said, “The ox knoweth his owner, and the donkey his master’s crib.” (Isaiah 1:3).
Angels glorify the new-born Lord, and announce the news of His birth to the shepherds and all men.
The event of the Nativity was mystically shown to the world by the appearance of a wondrous star, which led the Magi from the east to worship Him. Like an arrow, the star points to the spot where He lay.
Although the Gospel does not show how many Magi there were, we always show three. The three Magi are of various ages and bring gifts of gold for a King, incense for God, and myrrh for the dead – again a reference to the fact that Christ was born to die for our sins.
Saint Joseph was not the father of Christ, but pretended to be so, in order to protect the Virgin Mother of God. He sits in doubt, wondering if indeed his wife had conceived the Child by the Holy Spirit. Joseph represents the doubt that all men have from time to time concerning the Divine Mysteries of God, and because he was a just and good man, we have an example of humbly accepting God’s will with faith.
Satan appears to Saint Joseph in the form of an old shepherd, urging him to disbelieve the great miracle of Christ’s birth from a virgin.
Midwives were usually present at the births of children, to assist if there were difficulties, and to help the mother and child. Here they wash the new-born Lord, although He had no need of washing: their presence on the icon is a confirmation of the divine nature of Christ’s birth from the Virgin Mary. Midwives knew all about birth-giving and knew for sure this was not a usual one.
The birth of Christ was first announced to simple shepherds, who are shown amazed at the words the angels, and at the birth of Christ.
A shepherd plays a flute to celebrate the joy of the Saviour’s birth.
The mountains, stars, plants, animals and men, all of the creation, celebrate the birth of the Saviour to the world.