Nativity Sets and the Second Commandment

Assuming you celebrate Christmas, what are your thoughts on Nativity sets? Do they break the second commandment?

I don’t know how they wouldn’t, assuming you accept the Confession’s definition of a Second Commandment violation and that the set contains a representation of Jesus.

Westminster Larger Catechism

Q109: What are the sins forbidden in the second commandment?
A109: The sins forbidden in the second commandment are, all devising, counseling, commanding, using, and anywise approving, any religious worship not instituted by God himself; tolerating a false religion; the making any representation of God, of all or of any of the three persons, either inwardly in our mind, or outwardly in any kind of image or likeness of any creature whatsoever…

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The time came when I started taking the Jesus statue out of our nativity set for this reason.

Not sure on this one. A baby is a baby. Or maybe better, a newborn is a newborn, whereas a man is not a man. Sure, my wife off just now to assist in another delivery can see distinctions in a newborn’s appearance, but manger scenes never call your attention to any distinctive appearance of the Baby in the manger. If you cover the baby’s face with a postage stamp, is that sufficient, or must you cover his body, also? Is the form of his body idolatry, also? If so, isn’t any representation of Blessed Mary when she’s pregnant idolatry too because the form of Jesus is the form forming the outlines of her body? But to each his own conscience.

Which leads me to say what I’m more concerned about is the idolatry in our worship when we represent Jesus as most especially and fundamentally gentle and lowly. When we sing Hillsong crud that calls us to worship the Lord of the Universe as our boyfriend. These are serious misprepresentations of God.

We used to drive through the Bethlehem scenes spread around the parking lot of our local megachurch as a Christmas family outing. They had goats, sheep, cows, bearded men, covered women, straw, and some mother cuddling her baby. Opposed to pictures of Jesus, I is, but not opposed to somebody’s baby representing Jesus. Could be I’m wrong, but for what it’s worth. Love,


Pastor Tim,
I am with you in this. My family and I went to a live nativity on Sunday evening at a little baptist Church. It was sweet to see the small church all working together to share the gospel. It reminded me of some of the small churches I grew up visiting with my family. We were able to meet the pastor. He and I kicked it off well and I am going to be meeting up with him for lunch sometime soon.

To be honest, Daniel, I would rather get rid of the whole nativity scene then to take the baby out of it.


I have always struggled with this clause in the catechism answer. I get not wanting an image of a golden bull in your mind as you are worshiping God but how does one read scripture and not have mental images of what one reads. Are we really supposed to read Revelation 1 and its vivid description of Christ and not mentally picture it? Maybe I am just ignorant about what the Westminster divines meant here.

Yeah, that’s what we eventually did. :slight_smile:


I like this part of Luther’s explanation of the commandment in his large catechism. The only question would remain: is a nativity scene a stumbling block for my family or visitors? I don’t think that it is. But if I thought it might be, I would temporarily put it away for them.

A god is the term for that to which we are to look for all good and in which we are to find refuge in all need. Therefore, to have a god is nothing else than to trust and believe in that one with your whole heart. As I have often said, it is the trust and faith of the heart alone that make both God and an idol. If your faith and trust are right, then your God is the true one. Conversely, where your trust is false and wrong, there you do not have the true God. For these two belong together, faith and God. Anything on which your heart relies and depends, I say, that is really your God.

The intention of this commandment, therefore, is to require true faith and confidence of the heart, which fly straight to the one true God and cling to him alone. What this means is: See to it that you let me alone be your God, and never search for another. In other words: Whatever good thing you lack, look to me for it and seek it from me, and whenever you suffer misfortune and distress, crawl to me and cling to me. I, I myself, will give you what you need and help you out of every danger. Only do not let your heart cling to or rest in anyone else.
Even in the mind of all the pagan, therefore, to have a god means to trust and believe. The trouble is that their trust is false and wrong, for it is not placed in the one God, apart from whom there truly is no god in heaven or on earth. Accordingly the pagans actually fashion their own fancies and dreams about God into an idol and rely on an empty nothing. So it is with all idolatry. Idolatry does not consist merely of erecting an image and praying to it, but it is primarily a matter of the heart, which fixes its gaze upon other things and seeks help and consolation from creatures, saints, or devils. It neither cares for God nor expects good things from him sufficiently to trust that he wants to help, nor does it believe that whatever good it encounters comes from God.


I believe what is forbidden in the instruction not to make any representation of God inwardly in our mind is a practice of producing a set figure in the mind that one is compelled to bring to mind in order to believe they have properly worshipped. In other words, it would be an idol and would serve the same purpose as a graven image.