Somewhere in the midst of planning for, or taking part in, our Trunk or Treat, I found myself remembering the first time I participated in a “trunk or treat” event. I realized that someone, somewhere came up with the idea and others blatantly copied the idea because they liked the idea.
A similar thing happened nearly 800 years ago when a pastor created a live, outdoor Nativity as a part of his church’s Christmas celebration. Other people liked the idea and copied it. Then artists found ways to capture the idea in miniature form.
I don’t know what you call those artistic portrayals of the Christmas story. Some people refer to it as a Crèche, a French word; others call it a Krippe (German), or even Nacimiento (Spanish). I call it a Nativity Set. I do know that St. Francis of Assisi is credited with the origin of the crib scene, or Presepio as he called it in Italian, in 1223 or 1224.
I also know that Ronda and I began to collect them several years ago. It started by accident when we mentioned to my parents that we’d like to have one. I finally found one; it’s a clay Nacimiento made in Peru. While it only has six pieces and the baby Jesus looks too large – almost as if he were an adolescent in a crib – we liked it. When my folks came to visit again, I was delighted to show them our “find;” but the look on their faces told me we’d made a mistake.
Unbeknownst to us, they made one for us as a Christmas gift. It was a large set, complete with a teak wood stable. That began an annual tradition of finding a new one (or two or three). We now have so many that we cannot display them all at once. We will not set them all out, but many of them will be included in our church’s “At Home in Bethlehem” display during the first week of December!
Among them will be one that I think is our favorite. It was hand painted by Judy Taylor of Bellingham, Washington. The characters she painted remind us of a church Sunday School program with all of the characters, including Joseph who didn’t want to dress up like a Shepherd. But if you look closely, there is a special surprise – one of the magi is in a wheel chair.
Judy didn’t want to sell it to us, though. It had become a part of her life as she gave of herself in this piece of art. But our daughter’s wheel chair finally convinced her to let go of it. Her reluctance to part with it reminds me of how hard it must have been for God to part with Jesus; but God did so, out of love for us.
What a wonderful gift we have received! I hope you cherish it as much as I do. And I hope the thought of that gift will add joy to this season in which we find our way home for Christmas!