By Jamil Zoughb










While they were in Bethlehem, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger. Luke 2: 6-7

One of the places that you can find this Christmas Icon is above the entrance of the Nativity grotto, Bethlehem, Palestine. Where I always Enjoyed looking and reading this Icon.

And as I look at this Byzantine Icon that was written in the fifteen centuries by Andre Rublev, I can read many significant meanings for Christmas story, and I say read an Icon because the Icon is written to tell us a story and we read that by looking at it.

Allow me to mention only three significant meanings that I read in this Icon this Christmas.

  • Salvation is the main plan; God validates our human needs:

The writer of this icon wants to remind us that this child was born for a main important purpose, which is to bring us salvation. So, the writer put some significant meanings to that by writing the baby Jesus Christ into the center of this Icon. He is left alone, wrapped in shroud, surrounded by animals, and put in a coffin in the middle of a cave. This tells us that he was born to die.

This child is God and does not need any human help to exist. He was born to die for us, yet he took our humanity. He knows what we feel and live through in this life.  He knows every feeling, worry, and need that we experience is valid and true because we are human. The baby Jesus Christ is in the hands of two women. This baby is being taken care of.

2- All are welcome, all are included:

As you look to the Icon, you see the important rule of the women being present and active in this big event.  It is important for us to see that women are present.  Notice that Saint Mary’s face is looking at the other side of the child as if to say, “He is the Savior. Come and see.”   When humans are in need and wanting help and care, women are there and taking an important role for the humanity.  Solomy and the other women are bathing the child. The tradition does not mention the name of the other woman who is helping Solomy.





As you look to the Icon, you see the importance of welcoming all and all are included, no one is left out. No color, age, or race can divide the human, nor is one of these not included in this salvation. The writer of this Icon wrote each one of the Wisemen in different colors and different ages. The horses have different colors indicating the different continents as well.






3- Unity and Joy:

This Icon shows the meanings of unity and joy in many places and many shapes.

When we look at it, we see the Unity between the heavens and the Earth, both are becoming one. First, the angel is talking with the shepherd. Second, if you look at the icon as whole you will notice the circle movement between the characters. Lastly, the ray is coming in the middle of the cave and the cave is in the middle of the sky or “heaven”.






The joy of the news, the Human salvation, and God’s love for us are being celebrated. We can see them in two ways. First, we see the shepherd that is playing a musical instrument. Then, we see the dialogue between different characters.





A baby in a shroud is a very unusual position to celebrate a newborn baby. Yet this baby, who chose to reign from above, to celebrate our humanity and give us the joy that we need to live, to tell us no one is unwanted or unneeded, all are valued, and all are included in this plan. We, as well, should celebrate ourselves in God’s eyes. All of this shows that the writer of the Icon is telling us to celebrate, accept, and love each other without conditions and rules and to celebrate this huge love that is given to us by God.