If you visit Fredericksburg United Methodist Church near Christmas you will see a large and intricate Nativity Scene. It’s not unusual to see families stop and have their picture taken in front of the unique display. This beautiful Creche is donated each year by the Wilson family who, years ago, decided to share their annual family tradition with their church family. The Wilson Nativity Scene is s a vivid reminder of the many and varied traditions practiced by families at Christmas.
For the Wilsons, Christmas is about Jesus and the Nativity Scene so I asked Mike Wilson to share their story.
“Growing up in Venezuela,” Mike explained, “it was a part of our Roman Catholic tradition to set up a Nativity scene or Crèche as we called it. When I was 10 years old, my uncle brought a large set of figures from Rome for my mother. At that time, we had a sitting room in the house that was only used for formal visiting. It was in this room that we set up the Crèche.”
“How did setting up a Nativity Scene evolve into such an intricate annual display?” I asked.
“When we first started setting up the Crèche,” Mike answered, “we would get sand, rocks and cacti that were native to Venezuela to create the terrain we imagined from our Bible studies. Over the years, we found if we grew corn plants, after about 2 weeks, they would look like miniature cacti we had seen in westerns. From there it expanded over the years as we found new and creative ways to set up the Nativity. Each year, these were the first of our Christmas decorations to go up just before the start of Advent, and the last to come down in January.”
“What happened after you grew up and started your own family?” I asked.
“When I married and my parents moved back overseas, my mother gave me the large Nativity set. We have continued the tradition with my family, each year looking for bits and pieces to add to the set. We have purchased a similar second set to share with our church family. For the past few years, my sisters, my nephew and I have gotten together to honor these memories and the memory of my mother. It was always her desire to share this with her church family so we feel it is a fitting way to honor her and the season she loved second only to Easter.”
“What an appropriate way to honor your mother and share a treasured tradition with your church?” I answered. But you have added a few twists and puzzles for the children, haven’t you?”
“Yes!” Mike replied. “We always include fun for the little ones: Can you find the mouse? (Hint: he’s by his favorite food). The cat? The chicken and the rooster? The owl? The hermit crab? How about the baby angel? Do you see the choir director? She’s also flight control for the host of heavenly angels! And don’t miss ‘Angel Falls,’ in memory of the country where we grew up.”
“What fun! I may never look at a Nativity Scene quite the same way again.” Thank you and the whole Wilson family for sharing part of your family tradition with your church. We are blessed.”
“We thank our church,” Mike replied, “for allowing us to continue to share while honoring our mother and hopefully inspire others about the true meaning of Christmas. It is a time we look forward to as an opportunity to reminisce and share this tradition. Merry Christmas!”
“And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.” Luke 2:6-7