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Where does the word nativity come from?

The word derives from the Latin 'natal' meaning birth (1200–50; ME nativite < OF nativité < LL nātīvitās). Natal is also the source of several other English words, including native and nature.

While pre-natal is the standard medical term and in common use, nativity (the Nativity) is almost exclusively used in the religious/iconic sense, defined in the Oxford Dictionary as follows:
Nativity scene in Barcelona
 the birth of Jesus Christ/a picture, carving, or model representing Jesus Christ’s birth:
[as modifier]: a little crib surrounded with nativity figures: the Christian festival of Christ’s birth; Christmas.
 

What is the cultural significance of the Nativity?

For Christians Easter rather than the Nativity is not the central event in the church calendar. Nonetheless, Advent - the four Sundays leading up to Christmas - is a very important period because represents: 
  • the beginning of the church year. 
  • the time when the the religious and the secular worlds are most closely aligned
  • an opportunity to reach out to the wider community. Many non-believers will happily attend the Nativity plays that are put on in most British primary school, for example. 
The Nativity is the best known story in the Christian tradition. The key elements: the baby Jesus, Mary & Joseph, the Shepherds, the Magi (Wise Men/Three Kings, the manger - have near universal recognition.

Do Christians agree on the meaning of the Nativity?

 The Nativity the subject of theological dispute
The Nativity of Jesus, also The Nativity, refers to the accounts of the birth of Jesus, primarily based on the two accounts in the gospels of Luke and Matthew, and secondarily on some apocryphal texts. The word is anglicized from Latin De nativitate Iesu, a section title in the Vulgate.
The ... gospels of Luke and Matthew describe Jesus being born in Bethlehem, in Judea, to a virgin mother. Luke features the Christmas story, in which Joseph and Mary, as part of a census, travel to Bethlehem, where Jesus is born and laid in a manger.
Angels proclaim him a savior for all people, and shepherds come to adore him. In Matthew, wise men follow a star to Bethlehem to bring gifts to Jesus, born the King of the Jews. King Herod massacres all the toddler boys in Bethlehem to kill Jesus, but the holy family flees to Egypt and later settles in Nazareth. 
Scholars debate whether these two accounts can be reconciled or not, and some view the narratives as non-historical. Source
What is Frankinsense? And Myrrh

A Paul McCartney story about the young John Lennon's late night encounter with a Nativity scene inspired this fun Fred & Rita playscript.
Christmas Carol Teaching Pack
More Christmas-related posts

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