The shepherd’s name was Fred. He was part of our family nativity scene, a hodgepodge of painted plaster figurines with broken-off and re-glued heads, plastic replacements with the prices still stamped on the bottom, and one glass angel wearing a silvery gown that always reminded me of something Diana Ross once wore on a T.V. special.
Our family nativity scene was pieced together over years that spanned six curious kids, various hungry family dogs, and a lot of moving vans. The plastic camel had a split right down his middle that gave my brother hours of entertainment chasing me around the house, daring me to touch its plastic guts that looked disturbingly like pumpkin insides. Then there was the stable itself. My dad had built it from scrap lumber, purposely giving it a rough, unfinished look, and leaving a tiny opening in the back so you could fit a Christmas light inside to shine on baby Jesus. I remember lying in front of that manger scene for hours–it always sat under the Christmas tree–carefully rearranging animals and shepherds. I believed this was exactly how it looked when Jesus was born, right down to the blue light shining on Fred and Diana.
That’s probably why I love all manger scenes. I love the old family heirlooms, and the kind you get at the dollar store. I like goofy ones with Santa Claus in them, or with bears dressed up as Mary and Joseph. I love the enormous ones on people’s front lawns, and the tiny ones inside snow globes. I love them because they tell the story. Even better, they invite us right into that stable with the Son of God. How cool is that?
My oldest sister has been entrusted with our old family nativity scene, but over the years I’ve collected a few new ones to cherish. There’s this gorgeous one, that my mother-in-law made when my husband and I were first married, and that made me feel a part of the Clark family.
Then there’s this wee little baby Jesus, who really is wee little. I bought it for my mom, who loved all things miniature. After she passed away, one of my sisters found it and gave it to me. (And yes, I know I should wait until December 25th to put baby Jesus in there–but I’m usually having a good cry as I set this up, so sue me.)
Then there’s this one, from the mom of one of my catechism students. I love that her dad carved it from various types of wood–it reminds me a little of the stable my dad made.
What about you? What nativity scenes do you like? The ones your kids make? The drive-through kind? The one on your favorite Christmas coffee mug? The one that was (sigh) banned from your city? Share them all here, where they will be loved and admired.
And don’t forget, I’m still looking for your Advent house decorations. Send those in, too, so we can all share.