The Nativity Scene

Nativity_Scenes004I’ve been thinking this year about some of the traditional activities connected with Christmas–presents, trees, music. This past week I had the wonderful pleasure to view Christmas lights.

Not just any lights. There are a couple streets in the city of Brea where the home owners (of very nice homes) go all out at Christmas and decorate in every imaginable way. They hang and drape and wrap and wind and string lights from the peak of roofs to the edge of lawns and everywhere in between.

The result is magical. I mean, it’s astounding the creations these people come up with. They portray every aspect of Christmas you can think of. There are yards outlined with candy canes, others filled with presents. There are arches with holly wreaths and poinsettias and bells and jack-in-the-box-like reveals of children or elves or Santa.

Snoopy and his his crew get a bit of attention and of course so do snowmen and carolers and reindeer. But clearly, Santa is the star of the show.

The new thing seems to be to upgrade his transportation. While there were some sleighs, there were also trains, helicopters, airplanes, and even one hot-air balloon ready to whisk Santa away to deliver toys to all the good little girls and boys.

I truly did enjoy the light show, but the thing that stayed with me most was the fact that out of the hundred or so homes we looked at, I only saw two nativity scenes. Two. A couple houses had big Noel signs and one had a “Wise men still seek him” sign. Another home had a lighted cross in an upstairs window.

When I was growing up, Nativity Scenes were not unusual. We used to visit the State Capitol Building in Denver, and there was always a manger scene among the many lavish decorations. Often in the windows of homes we could see a wooden stable with figurines of Joseph, Mary, a collection of shepherds, and magi huddled around a manger where the fairly old looking pretend baby Jesus lay.

One of the families in the school where I taught had twelve children. And they happened to be a very musical group (VERY musical–tremendous talent). At some point they decided to go beyond a nativity display to a nativity re-enactment. I mean, they had, for quite a few years, a new born baby, whether child or grandchild, to play the part of baby Jesus. They did this on the front lawn of their very large home in Fullerton, and people would come from all over to watch the performance, much the way I did this past week to view the Christmas lights.

The point is, the events the Bible tells about the birth of Jesus Christ, once were prominent in our Christmas decorations. Our technology has improved and our displays have become more elaborate, but with it, there doesn’t seem to be an increase in spiritual awareness.

I couldn’t help but think, though, that once a manger scene at Christmas didn’t mean anything more than any other decoration. They were common, expected.

Now, I doubt people here in SoCal put up manger scenes unless they are purposefully, intentionally making a statement about what they believe about Christmas.

May the lights shining from the homes with Nativity Scenes shine ever brighter this year.

Published in: on December 20, 2013 at 6:24 pm  Comments (2)  
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  1. I just watched an interesting TV program about the customs in Italy regarding Nativity scenes. The custom began with St. Francis of Assisi who wanted to help people visualize the Christmas story. The TV program showed the Christmas markets in Rome which sell all sorts of lovely figures for the Nativity sets, and some families buy a new figure each year to add to it. For the Catholics, on one Sunday in December the children take their baby Jesus figures to St. Peter’s Square where the Pope will bless them. And the custom is to not put the baby Jesus into the Nativity scene until Christmas eve. It’s also customary, at least for the Nativity scenes in some churches of Rome, to leave up the Nativity scene until Feb 2, which in the Catholic and some other churches is a celebration of the Presentation of the baby Jesus in the Temple.


  2. We come from UK and do not decorate outside Luella but I agree they are magical! y husband has put two floodlights up.
    Inside I have a creche scene with figurines my cousin made long ago and an angel our son made at Sunday school. We also have a small wooden Mexican creche on a mantle-piece.
    Last year members of our Church staged a live nativity scene outside the church. That was memorable and reminded me of St Francis first one.


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