Many years ago I made several ceramic crèches, one I gave away, one I sold, and one that got packed up and stashed in my barn where it sat until last year. It once was set up at Zion Baptist Church, but when the pastor, my best friend’s husband, became very ill (and shortly after died of cancer) I brought the set home. In cleaning out one of my barns last year, I found it, or at least most of it… one box is missing containing animals and the angel… and I decided it was time to pass it along to someone who might appreciate it. John Burr is the pastor at the Onley Baptist Church and is a fine man – the kind of man I like to think is a good Christian. If you know me, being called a good Christian is something I seldom do considering some of the other ministers around - but I will not use this space to tattle on them. The crèche – I offered it to John… knowing that I am a Buddhist, I often wondered what he thought, but he was really pleased with it. So we set it up this year. The way I usually set it up is to move the different parts around the church with every one ultimately ending up in Bethlehem. Even the “stable’ does not get built until the next to the last week.
The wise men – or at least a couple of wealthy appearing men and their camels are over on one side of the church. The truth is they never went to Bethlehem anyway, probably never found Jesus until he was over a year old, but, because modern Christmas stories place them at the manger, I at least include them in the parade of folks included in the final scene. Besides, I really have an appreciation for camels, having ridden a few and having watched while they pulled our station wagon out of more than one river we were trying to cross… amazing animals… so I included them. I also have a nice herd of sheep, not all seen here, including one black one, tho whether a black one would have been in the flock of sheep kept just outside Bethlehem, I don’t know. The shepherds would have actually been rabbinical students, and the sheep would have been the sheep they kept near the temple for sacrifice. Each rabbinical student would have served at least a year as a shepherd for this flock having time to pray and contemplate “life” out in the hills overlooking the city. So, I have my little flock moving around.
Not everyone or everything is in this set of pictures… if I have a chance, I will take pictures as the scenes change. I do not have a place to move Mary and Joseph this coming week because of the way the church is laid out – so they will just disappear for now, reappearing on the 23rd. I am not sure what John wants to do with the wisemen… I would explain to the congregation that they really weren’t there… but who knows what he will do. Churches each have their own way of doing the Nativity scene. A friend of mine was a lobster at his when he was a kid. What? You didn’t have a lobstah at your church’s Christmas play? Guess you didn’t live in Maine! Anyway, here is the setting, 2nd week. When we came in to move things around, we discovered whoever put up the tree moved everything, so Bethlehem got places on a smaller table and the ground (which had been kitty litter) was now a white cloth. Snow? Also, MY interpretation of the wisemen says they traveled to the East… remember there are several books that were removed from the Bible over the years and they are really worth reading… so I put the wisemen in Egypt for this part of their journey. Even with some really swift camels, they would not make it on time. Their ground was covered with sand, but that got cleaned up. Oh well… it is a messy process.