The story of Jesus' nativity is one of my all-time favorites. When I was in my teens, I discovered a book called Two From Galilee, A Love Story of Joseph and Mary by Marjorie Holmes. I devoured that book. When I closed the last page, I was truly changed because I realized with stark clarity that those people, Joseph and Mary, were real! I never saw Scripture the same way again. Suddenly, the Bible and the people immortalized in its pages came alive for me, the stories written there more meaningful. It was my first real connection to the truth of Nativity. When Randy and I got married, I wanted a Nativity set to put on display at Christmas. My brother had a wooden stable with wood and plastic nativity characters that he passed down to us. It sat on the mantle above our fireplace in two different homes for years. Though I believe Jesus was probably born in a cave rather than a wooden stable, the look of the set seemed pretty rugged and old fashioned to me, and when the kids came along, they could play with the characters, rather than just sit and look at them.
I have always maintained that Nativity is not complete without the Passover, Crucifixion, and Resurrection, so in one of my more creative moments, I tried to make a hill with three crosses on it and set it away from the manger at the end of the mantle to bring both holidays together.
I will admit, I am not very artsy - at least not very good at my artistic attempts. But this is what I did. I took a Styrofoam ball and covered it in brown felt. (I'm noticing I used felt a lot back then!) Then I took brown plant picks (maybe I painted them - can't remember) and stuck them into the Styrofoam-covered felt, that was supposed to be a rock with dirt and grass, but you had to use your imagination. I glued the plant picks into crosses and placed them in the Styrofoam, creating a small version of Golgotha. A very poor imitation, but it was the reminder I was aiming for, and when I would look at the crosses along with the nativity, it was a great visual reminder of what my salvation cost my Savior.
The nativity scenes have always been central in our home. Today, on our mantle sits a newer set made of stone, with a painting above it of a dining table set in the skies - a symbol of a future banquet, known as the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. The seats are empty, waiting, and there is plenty of room. A fitting reminder of what the nativity and the cross paid for.