My dad collects nativity scenes. He has around one hundred different sets in various sizes and they are crafted from a dozen different materials. Each holds a story and a special place in his heart.
A medium sized set made out of paper mache sits illuminated under the big tree in the living room. It was dad’s first nativity and was a special gift from my mother on their first Christmas as a married couple. The figures, so delicate and carefully painted in rich color, mesmerized me as a child. From the angel spreading her glorious wings and proclaiming the good news on top of the rustic stable to the shepherd carrying a lamb over his shoulders, no doubt exhausted from a long journey. To the three wise men adorned in gold to a kneeling Mary dressed in blue, gazing lovingly at the innocent baby lying in a manger. As a child I would carefully sneak on top of the piano bench (during my childhood this nativity was placed on the grand piano) and I became lost in the scene; trying to visualize that marvelous first Christmas when Baby Jesus, our Lord and Savior was born. This nativity set, now forty-nine years old, is a treasured part of his collection.
The newest nativity found its place in his collection a few days ago. It was a gift from church friends, Ron and Judy Schield. This nativity is crafted from olive wood, each figure carefully carved by hand. It was made in Jerusalem and was acquired by their son when he made a visit to the Holy Land. Their son passed on a few years ago and my dad was deeply moved when the Schields generously gifted him with the nativity, a beautiful possession from their talented son who was taken from this Earth far too soon.
Another special nativity is one my father gave to Lillian when she was one-year old. Unlike the others, which are delicate and meant to be admired from afar, this one is made of hard plastic and it is intended for play and exploration. We placed the Fischer Price nativity beneath our tree and Lillian is free to interact with the figures whenever she pleases. This nativity is musical and plays “Away in a Manger.” Lillian loves pressing the angel on top because it makes the star light up and then the music begins to play. The other day I noticed Baby Jesus was missing from the scene. When I asked Lillian where He was she replied, “He’s not there.” Lillian’s innocent words remind me that Jesus did not stay a baby forever. He grew up and died on the cross to save me and all that believe. But He didn’t stay in the tomb either, he rose again and one day I look forward to joining Him in heaven.
A few days ago a co-worker posted a picture of the same Fischer Price nativity. John assembled the set for his granddaughter to explore. In the picture, a penguin resides next to one of the wise men. When he inquired about the penguin his oldest granddaughter replied, “All are welcome.” Jesus, who was born in a manger, does not discriminate. All are welcome for those who believe.