Latter-day Saint Life

Linger near the manger with this Nativity-inspired devotional

Screen Shot 2023-11-13 at 2.57.58 PM.png
Mandala Nativity, Sabrina J. Squires

Nativities add to the wonder of the Christmas season. Centering around baby Jesus, they remind us that we celebrate this holiday and give gifts to each other because God gave us the gift of His Only Begotten Son.

Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles wrote, “Christmastime is the perfect opportunity to focus our hearts and minds on the Christ child born so long ago and on the peace and hope that the message of His gospel brings into each of our hearts as we willingly follow Him.”

As the holiday season quickly approaches with all of its excitement, rush, and busyness, this Nativity devotional is one way to help keep Christ at the center of Christmas. Use your own nativity set as a prop to go along with each short message below about the different Nativity figures: Jesus Christ, Mary, Joseph, the Shepherds, the Angel, and the Wise Men. We also included two roles you might not typically think about: the Tax Collectors and the Manger Builder.

For each person, you’ll find a scripture, a short message, and a few questions that are meant to prompt conversations about centering your Christmas celebration on Christ.

Use this Nativity devotional in one night as a family home evening lesson, study it as a personal devotional, or focus on one role each day during the week before Christmas.

Jesus, the Christ

Screen Shot 2023-11-13 at 2.57.03 PM.png
Blue Sky Nativity by Sabrina J. Squires


“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).


Before He was born, Jesus was chosen to be the Savior of the world. Because of Him, there is hope, there is light, and there is peace. Because of Jesus, we are cleansed from sin, and we will live again.


“The Savior’s infinite and perfect love moved Him to atone for all of God’s children. That gift—the Atonement of Jesus Christ—allows all of His other gifts to be ours” (“First Presidency Christmas Message,” December 2023).


  1. Christ is not only the reason we celebrate Christmas; He is also God’s gift to the world. Why is the birth of Jesus a gift to each of us?  
  2. From the lights and the cookies to the presents, how can we remember Jesus in all that we do as we celebrate Christmas this year?  


Screenshot 2023-12-15 at 11.41.36 AM.png
Detail from Mandala Nativity by Sabrina J. Squires


“And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. ... then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be? ... And the angel answered and said unto her, ... For with God nothing shall be impossible. ... And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word” (Luke 1: 30–31, 34, 37, 38).


Mary, with great faith, accepted a calling that she didn’t know she had been called to receive before she was born. That doesn’t mean she said “be it unto me” without also feeling, “Why me, exactly? I’m kind of a small-town nobody.”

Gaye Strathearn wrote, “Would Mary have thought that she, a peasant young woman from Nazareth, would be the mother of the Messiah? Probably not. The point is that calls of discipleship often require alterations to our personal life plans.”


If we could ask Mary if she was prepared to be the mother of Jesus, what would she say?

Maybe she would reply, “It was an unexpected calling, but I was not unprepared to do God’s will. I live my life so that the Lord knows I am ready to do my part in His work, for His glory. I know He will walk with me. I go forward because I have faith in Him.”


  1. How can we be prepared to serve wherever and whenever we are needed?  
  2. Like Mary, how can we have the courage to do what the Lord asks of us?  


Screenshot 2023-12-15 at 11.50.32 AM.png
Detail from Angel Nativity by Sabrina J. Squires


“While [Joseph] thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife. ... She shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins. … Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him” (Matthew 1:20–21, 24).


“We have no scriptural record of any words spoken by Joseph, the foster father of Jesus. ... Despite the lack of words, Joseph’s testimony as to Christ’s divine sonship is most eloquent. ... He faithfully heeded each divine direction that was given to him. Surely his unquestioning obedience is evidence of belief,” Joseph Fielding McConkie wrote.


Joseph pondered a problem and received personal revelation through a dream on how he should move forward. Then he immediately did as the Lord directed.

If we were to ask Joseph, “How do you Hear Him?” what would he reply?

He might say, “I ponder and reflect on what I know to be true and how I can act in a way that is becoming of a man of faith. Pondering turns my mind to God so that when revelation comes, I am ready to hear Him. I do my best to immediately act on personal revelation so that the Lord knows I understand and so that He continues to direct and guide my footsteps.”


  1. What can we learn from the way Joseph responded to the angel’s words? What can we do this busy and bright holiday time so we still hear Him? 
  2. How does Joseph’s experience show us that the Lord is aware of each of us individually?  


Screenshot 2023-12-15 at 11.53.07 AM.png
Detail from Blue Sky Nativity by Sabrina J. Squires

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in their field, keeping watch over their flock by night” (Luke 2:8).


The shepherds were abiding—enduring the night together to make sure their flocks were safe. According to Aubrey Eyre of the Church News, “sheep herding was a family business in first century Israel, and as such, there would have been women and children among the shepherds in the field spoken of in the scriptures.”


We don’t know the names of the shepherds who were visited by angels the night Jesus was born, but research shows it could have been families tending to their sheep together. These families said to one another, “Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass” (Luke 2:15). United, the shepherding families “came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger” (Luke 2:16).

If we were to ask them what it was like, what do you think they would say?

Maybe one young shepherd might have said, “I was afraid of the heavenly light at first, but then I was so excited to see the baby the angels told us about. The best part? I was with my family. We got to experience this together.”


  1. How does family make the Christmas holiday more special to you?  
  2. What can we do as a family to come closer to Christ this holiday season?  


Screenshot 2023-12-15 at 11.55.55 AM.png
Detail from Pink Sky Nativity by Sabrina J. Squires


“And the angel said unto [the shepherds], Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger” (Luke 2:10–11).


Visits from angels aren’t common, but that doesn’t mean angels aren’t with us on our earthly journey. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught, “Seen or unseen [angels] are always near. Sometimes their assignments are very grand and have significance for the whole world. Sometimes the messages are more private.”


In the same way the shepherds were told how to find the baby Jesus, the Lord will help us know what to do and what we’re looking for through guidance from the Spirit. While we walk by faith, we are walking with angels.

What would our message “of good tidings of great joy” be about Jesus if we had the chance to tell others like the angels did?


  1. How can we be angels to each other?  
  2. Is there someone who needs us to be an angel for them?  

Wise Men

Screen Shot 2023-11-13 at 2.57.38 PM.png
Wisemen Mandala painting by Sabrina J. Squires


“The star … went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy” (Matthew 2:9–10).


We don’t know who the Wise Men were, or how many of them made the journey, but we know they were men of great faith. The Bible Dictionary states, “Their spiritual capacity is evident: They saw the star, knew its meaning, brought gifts to the young child, and were warned of God in a dream to return to their home by a safe route. Their knowledge was precise and accurate.”


Sometimes we’re given a sign to move forward, but we don’t see the results from following the Spirit for a long time. The Wise Men followed the star but didn’t see Christ right away. It took a journey of consistent faith, following the direction they knew they were supposed to go, before they arrived at their destination to meet Christ. God provides the gospel light to guide our path.

If we could ask them about their experience, what would the Wise Men say?

They might have shared, “All our years of study helped us recognize the heavenly light when it appeared—a sign of the birth of the Savior of the world. We thought we might see others making the same journey, but we were the only travelers following the star. Although we sought and gained wisdom through scripture and prayer, we weren’t prepared for the exquisite joy that brimmed over in our hearts when we finally saw the Christ child. God is good. God is so, so good.”


  1. What can we do to follow the light of Christ, like the Wise Men following the star, even when it feels like we’re on the path alone?  
  2. How does God’s show His guiding light in our lives during dark times?  

While we may not always remember them at Christmastime, there were many people who contributed to the Nativity story. Here are a few figures we may not usually consider.

Bonus Role: The Tax Collectors

Screenshot 2023-12-15 at 12.00.05 PM.png
Detail from Bethlehem Nativity by Sabrina J. Squires


“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed” (Luke 2:1).


These familiar words launch us into the telling of the Nativity story, and we look forward to the following verses when Joseph and Mary enter the scene. Not pictured, but still part of the story, are the tax collectors, or publicans as they were called in Jesus’s day.

One publican later in history is very familiar to us. “Matthew was a publican … before he was called as one of the Lord’s Apostles,” Janet Thomas writes. “Because of that profession, we can guess that he was well educated and knew how to read and write, probably in several languages, including Greek.”

Also, because of his profession, Matthew was probably disliked by many. “[Matthew] was a hated tax collector until his conversion to Jesus Christ,” Thomas R. Valletta writes in The New Testament Study Guide. Tax collectors were often corrupt, using their position in society for personal gain and political favor with the Roman guards who enforced the taxing.


Though Matthew was probably honest at his profession, as was Zacchaeus (see President Henry B. Eyring, “Walk with Me,” April 2017), he would have been grouped as part of the corruption problem by other Jews. Put yourself in Matthew’s shoes and imagine the rude behavior he might have encountered daily as he tried to do his job by people who justified their unkindness toward him because of their hate for his position.

While this unkind behavior happens today too—and maybe you already feel like Matthew—we can trust that Jesus knows our efforts and sees the good we’re trying to do, even if no one else does.


  1. How does knowing Jesus help when we feel unappreciated or disliked when we’re just trying to do what we’re asked to do at our jobs or in other responsibilities?  

Bonus Role: The Manger Builder

Screenshot 2023-12-15 at 12.02.14 PM.png
Detail from Mandala Nativity by Sabrina J. Squires


“And she brought forth her first-born son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7).

“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20).


Before Jesus was born, someone made the manger that would eventually hold him. At the time, Matthew J. Grey explains, some mangers were found in limestone caves and made by “carving into the grotto walls … stone troughs to water the animals.” These types of dwellings weren’t for the wealthy. A humble family probably worked side-by-side to carve out the space for the manger in a cave near or under their home.

Even though a feeding trough for animals was not the perfect crib for a baby, it was prepared and ready to receive the Savior at His birth.


Our circumstances don’t have to be perfect for us to make room for Him in our lives. We just need to be ready to receive Him.


  1. What are we doing to prepare to receive Jesus into our hearts and homes during the Christmas season?  
  2. How has Heavenly Father prepared us to help others? 

As you study the story of the Nativity and think about the role each person played, we hope it helps you remember Jesus Christ’s role as our Savior and Redeemer. We also hope that you feel more certain of your individual and important role in our Heavenly Father’s great plan of happiness.

Each of us is needed and loved. Just as Jesus is at the center of Nativity scenes, with Him at the center of our lives, we’re able to feel His peace and share His light with everyone who walks with us during our earthly story.

We wish you a Christmas celebration filled with joy!

All artwork pictured was created by Sabrina Squires, and we’re grateful for her permission to include it with this Nativity devotional. You can find her artwork on the cover of the Book of Mormon 2024 Come, Follow Me Journal Edition.

Learn more about her work here.

Discover unique nativities for your home

With 410 nativities from 27 different countries, Deseret Book is the place to find the unique nativity set that your family will treasure for years to come. Find your favorite at Deseret Book or

Stay in the loop!
Enter your email to receive updates on our LDS Living content