Timely in the season, National Geographic presents a three night special startind December 17, as millions of people around the world will celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, even as questions and controversies persist regarding his life, times and context. <P></P> <P>While the New Testament presents one record of his birth and the sequence of events in his life, there are gaps in the timeline that remain a mystery. </P> <P>Further mystery — and contention — surround Jesus’ birthplace and any possible physical proof of his life and death.</P> <P>National Geographic Channel (NGC) journeys into the crux of the Christian religion to explore centuries-old controversy, new theories, polarizing discoveries and current events in <STRONG>The Missing Years of Jesus, premiering Monday, December 17, at 9 p.m. ET/PT; Decoding Bible Relics, premiering Tuesday, December 18, at 9 p.m. ET/PT; and Explorer: Last Christians of Bethlehem, premiering Wednesday, December 19, at 9 p.m. ET/PT.</STRONG></P> <P>These three specials ask engaging questions: What were Jesus Christ’s teenage years like? What cultural and political issues may have influenced him? Are recently discovered finds in the Holy Land authentic artifacts or sophisticated fakes? And what does the future hold for the last remaining Christians of Bethlehem and the sacred sites of this richly historic city? </P> <P>Each show draws from a wide variety of sources, including interviews with biblical scholars, religious leaders, archaeologists, authors and those at the center of a firestorm.</P> <P>Premieres include:</P> <P><STRONG>"The Missing Years of Jesus" <BR>Monday, December 17, at 9 p.m. ET/PT (World Premiere)</STRONG></P> <P>Between the ages of 12 and 30, the life of Jesus Christ is nearly unaccounted for — almost two decades missing from the man at the core of the Christian religion. Today, scholars are beginning to form a clearer picture of the missing years by examining stories in the New Testament gospels and reconciling this record with new archeological discoveries. A narrative rich in details and subtle clues begins to emerge. What was his family life like? Was he educated or bilingual? Where might he have worked? And what cultural and political issues may have influenced him? Go back to Nazareth in 6 A.D. to learn more about the blue-collar village where he lived, its oppressed inhabitants and abusive Roman rulers to see how it may have influenced Jesus’ rebellious personality and radical beliefs.</P> <P><STRONG>"Decoding Bible Relics" <BR>Tuesday, December 18, at 9 p.m. ET/PT</STRONG><BR> <BR>In recent years, extraordinary finds in the Holy Land have appeared to support the legendary Temple of Solomon and burial of Jesus. But can we distinguish authentic artifact from sophisticated fake, fact from fiction? See how a tiny four-centimeter-long object, called the ivory pomegranate and thought to be the ornamental tip of a priest’s ceremonial staff, becomes a revolutionary discovery — the first physical evidence that King Solomon’s temple existed. But is the engraved Aramaic text genuine? And who is the owner and where did it come from? Then, investigate a shiny black stone with ancient writing known as the Jehoash Tablet that seems to confirm events in the New Testament. Is it a priceless artifact or a hoax? And finally, go to the tomb some believe belonged to Jesus’ family, which received widespread publicity and skepticism.</P> <P><STRONG>"Explorer: Last Christians of Bethlehem" <BR>Wednesday, December 19, at 9 p.m. ET/PT (World Premiere</STRONG>)</P> <P>The Church of the Nativity in the heart of Bethlehem marks one of Christianity’s most sacred sites: the birthplace of Christ. For centuries, it was one of the most fought-over holy places, seized and defended by a succession of armies — including Muslim and Crusader forces. Explorer takes us inside Bethlehem, the famous epicenter of Christendom, to show us that the city is still a place of passions interrupted. Follow the event that polarized the world, when armed Muslim extremists sought refuge in the Church of the Nativity in 2002 and instigated a deadly standoff between Palestinian gunmen and Israeli soldiers. Years later, in the wake of the siege, tourists and worshippers to the church are few, and Christian residents are caught in the crosshairs of a growing Islamic fundamentalism and the entrenched Israeli fortress that surrounds it. Hear the fervid, revealing stories from those at the center of a changing, divided city. </P>Note the date on this article may be incorrect due to importing it from our old system.