Of Crèche Sets and Christ

Merry Christmas!  I hope you and your loved ones had a wonderful time celebrating the birth of our Savior, the birth of Hope!  I hope it was full of family, fun, and frivolity!

This post today is short(er) – I don’t want to take you away from family for too long!  They are really just some random thoughts I have about the real Story of Christmas: Jesus.

A Crèche Set Story

I grew up in a household that had probably about 20 crèche sets.  I loved looking at all of them and putting them out each year.  They each were unique and special to me, each bearing a memory of Christmas past.  I’m not sure I could choose one favorite.

When I got older I started to wonder: which one was Mary’s favorite?

It’s perhaps an odd thought, but I think this blog has established the oddity of my thought processes.  But the question begs a closer examination.  After all, Mary was a real person, with real feelings, and (in my opinion) had a rather traumatic first Christmas.  Her opinion would be most important.

However, the most important part of that question stems from what we often forget at Christmas time: these were not picture-perfect people in flowing and pristine garments.  These were blue-collar, rough-and-tumble, hard-working, ordinary men and women. (Yes, women plural, even if they aren’t shown in crèche scenes or mentioned in the Bible. It was common for village women to help with births; I assume that happened with Mary, too.  It’s ridiculous to think Joseph would have done it.)

Anyway, the point is, they were real people.  Just like Santa Lucia, just like Santa Claus…And just like them, have we obscured the Truth behind the smoke of legends?

The First Crèche

The first “crèche” was actually a living nativity set up by Francis of Assisi in 1223.  He got an ox, a donkey, and set up shop in a cave (tradition says the “stable” was actually a cave) where he preached on Jesus’ birth; it doesn’t seem like there were live actors at this time.[1]

This and other plays like them (called “mystery or miracle plays”) commonly depicted Bible stories to ordinary people.  This was incredibly important, as church services were conducted exclusively in Latin; doing plays like this helped spread the Gospel among the common folk.[2]

Common folk…which would have included people in similar life situations as Jesus’ family and the shepherds.  You can imagine how powerful this would be to the people who saw them.  They were used to the gilded trappings of high-church; but these plays let them glimpse a truer picture of Christ…a picture that looked startlingly like them.

The Role of Crèche Sets in Christmas

So…which crèche set would have been Mary’s favorite? Although I obviously can’t speak for her, I think she’d say the ones that told the story about the Savior’s birth.  Which is to say, all of them!  All of them can be used to tell others about the birth of the Messiah; however, we must be intentional.  Don’t just assume others know the story.  Use the pieces to tell it to them!  But more importantly, use the pieces to tell it to yourself.

And then, tell them the most important part of the crèche: the reason Jesus came down in the first place.

Jesus may have been born in a cave in Bethlehem; but we cannot and should not leave him there.  For, after suffering and dying for our sins, he was resurrected in another cave near Jerusalem.  In that first cave, he offered the promise of hope; in that second cave, he delivered it.  Never forget the second.  It’s the reason for the first.


[1] “The First Nativity Scene was Created in 1223,” https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/the-first-nativity-scene-was-created-in-1223-161485505/

[2] “Who Staged the First Nativity Scene?” https://slate.com/human-interest/2013/12/history-of-the-christmas-creche-st-francis-invented-the-nativity-scene.html

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