As a child, I looked forward to Christmas morning, anticipating the gifts that Santa would bring. But there was something else I looked forward to, also. Growing up in a Roman Catholic family, the nativity set was always a focal point of our Christmas tree. It sat front and center under the tree, surrounded by gifts and decorations. We would put it out when we decorated the tree, but Baby Jesus was never placed in the manger until right before we went to bed on Christmas Eve. Having the honor to put Him there was just as sought-after as being the one who was lifted up by our dad to put the star on top of the tree. Putting Baby Jesus in the manager was our parents’ way of reminding us of what Christmas was really about, and it was the last impression we had before we went to bed Christmas Eve (and yes, dreamt about Santa and toys).
There was another manger scene that created much anticipation for me, too. Even though I dreaded having to stop playing with my new toys to go to church, going to mass on Christmas morning was something we always did. Our Altar Guild would create a gorgeous Nativity scene with brown grocery bags crunched up to look like a rocky grotto with a light dusting of spray “snow” on them to add realism. The scene would not be set up until Christmas Eve; the Wise Men never made an appearance before Epiphany, and Baby Jesus wasn’t placed in the manger until midnight Christmas Eve. So much to look forward to! I would sit in the pew and squirm, waiting for Communion so that I could get a better look.
These are such simple memories, but were much anticipated highlights of the season. I’m sure I couldn’t name half a dozen of the presents that Santa brought me over the years, but I’ll never forget these images.
And that brings us to Redeemer and the Crèche Display. I was recently asked “Why do we have all these Nativities pop up every Advent? What does it all mean?” Well, we have them because I read an article years ago about two women who set up a display in their homes and decided that I wanted to do that. I wanted to create a tradition at Redeemer that would impart a bit of that feeling of the season and evoke some of the anticipation that I felt as a child and feel every year. I hope that has happened; that our annual Crèche Display is something that you will take with you in your memories and that you and your family will anticipate each and every Advent season.
– Meg Mueller