Scripture: Luke 2:7
Years ago while I was in college I passed by a jewelry store in Friendly Shopping Center in Greensboro, North Carolina. Prominently displayed in one of their windows was a very beautiful nativity set with hand carved and hand painted figures. The scene included many people that we might think would be anxious and curious to see an infant and his parents taking refuge in a stable. There were shepherds and shepherdesses. There were the usual barnyard animals along with a dog and a cat. And there were children!
There were the Three Kings or Wise Men with their precious gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. It may have been the first time that I saw an elephant, a stallion and a camel as the modes of transport for the foreigners who came to pay homage to the One who was born to be King of the Jews. I still like to think that Balthazar, Caspar, and Melchior rode in on camels when they found Mary and the child dwelling in a house.
I was immediately smitten, but I soon discovered that such an artwork was great beyond my means. I longed to have a truly fine nativity set and so in 2015 I finally ordered a nativity that has open stock so that I can add to my collection of the Italian crafted figures. I am quite pleased with the figures that I have now that are representative of people living and working on the outskirts of the little town of Bethlehem. In particular, I like the shepherdess who came bringing fruit to the Holy Family. My most recent acquisition is a washer woman and I can well imagine that her desire to launder the young infants’ soiled swaddling clothes would be greatly appreciated by Mary and Joseph.
Now you may say, “Alan, there is no mention of a shepherdess bringing fruit and a washer woman laundering diapers in the Gospels of Matthew or Luke!” And I would say, “You are 100% correct, but show me where a donkey or camels are mentioned in Luke 2:1-20 or Matthew 2:1-12. Because there was no room in the inn, there were lots of people around and so there is no reason why we may not make an interpretive leap to suggest that men and women, boys and girls might have joined the shepherds to see what had come to pass. Though not armed with precious gifts, others may have chosen to share of their provisions and provide some kind service to the young family. Hence a more accurate picture of the Nativity might include townspeople and shepherds, adults and children, and barnyard and domestic animals. Later the Three Kings or Wise Men would come.
Gracious God, nativity sets can be made of many different materials clay, fabric, glass, metal, plastic, wood, etc. Some are quite primitive while others are quite elaborate and gilded with gold. We thank You for these figures that help us to tell the beautiful story of the birth of Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us not forget that these nativity sets remind us to come and adore Him, Christ the Lord. In His name, we pray. Amen.