For our podcast episode on the icon of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, we’ve placed a few icons here so that we can all see the same examples!
We don’t own the copyright to these images, but have simply seen them online at the provided links. If you’d like a copy for your home, you can purchase these icons from the sellers listed in the captions.
If you’d like to print up a Nativity icon to color, you’ll find some of Fr. John Matusiak’s beautiful line drawings on the OCA website, and for older kids you might like this informative color printable on the Antiochian church website.
In this first icon, we can see the classic elements of the Nativity story. Joseph and Mary attend to Jesus, Who lies in the manger (which looks a lot like a coffin, because He is born to die, and then to defeat death by His death!) We can see the ox and the donkey (from Isaiah’s prophecy), and the angel as he announces the birth of our Lord to the shepherd. The magi are on their way to honor the newborn King.
In the top center, is a blue shape that is sometimes called a mandorla. Whenever you see this blue shape (which can look like lines and a circle, or sometimes like an almond), that means that the iconographer is showing you something that cannot really be seen: the mandorla signifies the presence and the glory of God. In this icon, it’s like a light beaming down from the heavens, pointing to the Christ child, showing that He came down from heaven to the earth.
This icon includes all of the same elements, but adds more. Now Joseph sits to the side, struggling with doubt. Now we see two shepherds hearing the news, and more angels are on the scene to glorify our Lord — and you’ll find that now there is an angel guiding the magi.
This beautiful icon has most of the elements we have seen, but includes more of the story: the midwife is giving baby Jesus His first bath, and the devil is tempting Joseph.
This icon tells even more of the story! Before, the icons have all shown us the birth of Jesus in the cave, inside the jagged mountains. This icon continues the story after they leave the cave. Here, the magi are not still traveling, but have arrived to see Christ. He is no longer in the cave, but is not inside a building with His mother, the Theotokos. Then in the lower right, we find the Flight to Egypt, as Joseph and Mary hurry away to Egypt to protect baby Jesus from Herod’s terrible slaughter.
If you’d like to see even more, take a look at Fr. Jeremy’s discussion of a very complex, old Russian icon of the Nativity on his Orthodox Road blog! There is so much to see in the world of Orthodox iconography.
May God bless your Nativity feast!