How it happened, I don’t remember. I love the fact that every Christmas I have several nativities to put out around my home. I always wanted a nativity scene, but for years didn’t have one. In the mid 90’s I was working at Famous-Barr. How many of you remember that department store? It was owned by May Company, and they owned several department stores, including Famous-Barr, Hecht’s, Filene’s, Lord & Taylor, Robinsons-May, and a few more I cannot remember. At the end of the Christmas season, all the Christmas stock goes on sale for at least half price. In the china department, they had the Holy Family manufactured by Coalport by Wedgwood. It retailed at the time for $90. It was at least 1/2 price, and with my 20% discount, I purchased these three beautiful pieces. It was the start of my nativity. The following Christmas, for some reason, Famous-Barr did not carry the rest of the set.
I had always admired my Aunt Mary’s nativity, which was a Lenox painted set. It reminded me of the set I had, except the Wedgwood set was about half the size in height as the Lenox set. Time marched on, and I changed jobs, became more successful, and was having a house built. The following fall, my Aunt Mary called me and said to be expecting a package delivered to my home. She said she found the complete nativity set, and she bought it for me. I told her I couldn’t accept such an extravagant gift. She said that it was a house warming gift, and she wanted me to enjoy it. Every year I take each piece out of its box, and lovingly set it up thinking about my aunt. I remember one year I was setting it up, and I stopped and called her and said I was coming to visit. Aunt Mary passed away four years ago, but every year as I set up this set, I think of all the wonderful times I spent with her. She took me under wing after my mom died. We had many dinners together and watched a lot of movies together. I have told my children that when I die, I don’t care what they do with my stuff—except for that Nativity set—please make sure that someone receives it who will appreciate its beauty and the fact that a very dear aunt filled my Christmas each year with joy!
Somehow, I started collecting nativity sets. I like seeing how different people and different cultures envisioned the nativity. What is interesting is that Jesus was probably born in a cave, and it was primitive. Mary and Joseph traveled for miles while she was quite pregnant so they could pay their taxes. There was no deodorant in those days. I am sure the real Joseph and Mary were not in the beautiful dress and robes you see in photos and nativities scenes. Jesus had a lowly birth, but his birth, his death, and his resurrection changed the world forever. No one in history has ever had such a huge effect on our world as did Jesus. Even those who do not believe in him as their Savior cannot deny him historically or that his life on earth had such a huge impact on this world.
My next nativity set was one I found walking through a mall. It was made of resin, and it depicted children. It reminded my how a Sunday School Christmas program might look, with the children playing the parts of the Holy Family, the wise men, and shepherds. it struck my fancy, and nativity # 2 was added to my soon to be expanding collection. My favorite character in the set is the camel, which is two little boys under a camel costume.
Of course, one cannot forget the Fisher Price Little People Nativity. I always put this on my coffee table at easy reach for the grandkids. They could touch it and play with it, and it will not break. Last year I sent one like it to my grandson in Los Angeles since he hasn’t had an opportunity to see mine. My teenage grandkids still comment when they see it on the table. They love that it is still there, and it reminds them of the many Christmas celebrations when they were just tots.
Two years ago my husband and I went on a cruise of the western Caribbean. We were in Cozumel, Mexico, and took the side trip to see the Mayan ruins. Their gift shop had many Mayan designed items, but what struck me was their nativities. They were colorful and fun. I love seeing how other cultures depict the birth of Christ. None of us will have it right, but as long as it is a reminder of the miracle of his birth, I am good with it. I purchased the set, and looked forward to setting it up the following Christmas.
My kids and friends have given me other nativity sets. Probably the most unusual one I received was from my daughter-in-law. It is a one piece set from Peru. You open the doors, and there is the manger scene, and there are people dancing with scissors! Yes, scissor dancing is some sort of tradition in Peru, not a religious tradition, but one that was combined with the nativity to make it unusual and unique!
I would love an African nativity, but I want it authentic and not bought off of eBay. I just may have to travel there sometime, or find someone who knows where I can get one. I wonder also if there is an Asian version of the nativity. I have never seen one of those, but it would also be interesting.
There is no magic in the nativity scene. There is a miracle in the birth of Christ, though. He was prophesied throughout the Old Testament, and his birth, his death, and his resurrection, are all foretold by the prophets of old. The people thought the prophecies were about an earthly king, one with riches and power, but Jesus, is a spiritual king. He had no riches, he had no bed to lay his head, he lived a life of love and service. He was tough, and he stood up to the religious leaders of the time, who were more interested in “looking religious” than having a life of love and grace. His death and resurrection seals the deal for us, to know we can be in a relationship with the God of the Universe, and we can know true peace that passes all understanding.
Easter is actually the most significant holiday for Christians. Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection is what seals the deal. On the cross, Jesus said, “It is finished.” Yes, what he came to earth to do—to come as a man, to take our sin upon himself, and to die for those sins, he finished the work he came to do. His resurrection was the completion, the proof, that he was not just any man who died. He was the Savior, and death could not hold him.
I love my nativity scenes, and all of the Christmas celebrations. I love that Advent looks at the promise and the waiting for the Savior. It all is the prelude to the biggest of all events that we celebrate at Easter. I love looking around my house, seeing the tree decorated with memories of my family, and looking at the nativities and the celebration of the birth of Jesus! Merry Christmas! Rejoice!