This book cover’s image makes me a little uncomfortable.
It bothers me, for example, that Joseph looks like he’s dressed for the actual Nativity, and Mary looks like she’s dressed for her Church’s reenactment. It looks like it’s the Nativity scene set in contemporary times, and I don’t like it.
Nevertheless, updating clothing – and other details – to appeal to modern readers is nothing new. In Medieval manuscripts, the most notable I can think of being illustrated editions of Lancelot du Lac, images were frequently set in the geographical area and time of the intended readership. Images were also almost always drawn in the popular artistic style of the day. Readers could then more directly identify with what was happening in the scene, as they were more familiar with the setting and with the artistic style. Illustrations, after all, are more than just decorative – they are also functional. The illustrator wants to provoke reader response.
In addition, note the lack of animals in the image above. (former) Pope Benedict XVI would be proud .