The very first Nativity scene of record dates back to the year 1223. History credits Saint Francis of Assisi, as the creator of a crèche for a Christmas Eve Mass while he was visiting in Grecio. After this meaningful display of an ox, donkey and a manger, it quickly became a trend. During these times sculptors mainly fabricated these out of marble. Through the years people began to use different materials such as clay and wood so they would be affordable for common people to have. Though the Nativity scene started with very humble beginnings, with only a few figurines depicting Jesus’ birth, it grew over time to include a variety of farm animals, numerous angels, Shepherds, the Wise Men and camels.
This tradition eventually morphed into the home variety of Nativity Sets that are still largely popular today.
Theologians agree that the typical Nativity Set that is sold in stores today inaccurately depicts the actual night of our Savior’s birth. They say that most Nativity Sets portray the first year of
of his life and the Magi followed the star to Jesus’ home a year after he was born.
Regardless of the historical accuracy, many people find comfort in having all of the pieces together in one big show. As a child growing up I remember our family having a Nativity Set that we set out every year as part of our Christmas decor. I vividly remember the grassy textured roof on top of the barn and it had all of the major players glued down to the bottom of the barn. I am fairly certain that my parents appreciated the fact that they were permanently in place but it bothered me.
Looking back, I think it was mainly because I wanted to integrate these figurines with my Barbies. My Barbie needed a baby wrapped in swaddling cloth and farm animals to complete her family.
Over time different pieces of our Nativity Set were broken, lost, and all that was left was the dusty barn. Since that time I truly never had a crèche of my own. Years later when my oldest daughter was born, my mother bought her a Fisher Price Nativity Set. It was brightly colored, child-size and child-proof. My daughter cherished it and passed it on to her younger sister years later. Unfortunately, some of these pieces were lost, chewed up by household pets and disposed of. As of today I can only find Mary….
This year, for the very first time in my life, I am the proud owner of my own Nativity Set. It proudly sits in a place of honor on my fireplace mantle and it includes all of the extra people and animals who were not present on the actual night of his birth. It serves a gentle reminder that Christ entered this world in the most humble of ways. He was carried by a virgin teenager who God handpicked for this monumental task. He came as a baby, lived a natural and human life. He was born with the purpose of being the Savior of the world.
When I ponder all of the reasons that we need a Savior, it floods my soul to know that God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son. This is a gift that lives in our hearts and not on a mantle or stored away in box year to year. Merry Christmas….
“She will give birth to a son, and you are give him the name Jesus because he will save his people from their sins.”