The Nativity of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ
There is so much here!
For starters, notice that Joseph is off to the bottom left. This is his proper position in the Nativity icon. Think of the Gospel account – Joseph is righteous and protects Mary and Jesus, but he is not involved in the miracle of the incarnation of the Son of God. The old man speaking to him represents the devil bringing new doubts to Joseph. Some angels are looking up- glorifying God. Some angels are looking down, tending to the action and ministering. The two women on the right are the midwives which our tradition says Joseph summoned. Whether he really did this or not is irrelevant. This is here to show that Jesus was born in the normal way and would have needed washing, as a regular human baby would.
Notice that the manger is like a casket, (He was born to die!) and his swaddling clothes are very much like the grave clothes shown in the icon of the myrrh-bearing women below.
The tree below the baby is the “Jesse Tree” from prophesy, which says that a shoot will sprout from the stump (tree) of Jesse (the father of King David) “A shoot shall sprout from the stump (tree) of Jesse and from his roots a bud shall blossom. The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him” Isaiah 11:1-2
The ox and the ass are also from Old Testament prophecy, always shown near the Christ child, providing warmth from their breath: Isaiah (1:3) “The ox knows his owner , and the donkey his master’s crib”