Come to the manger
Many people bring their nativity sets out of storage just in time for Christmas and look back with fond memories.
Maybe they received it as a gift, maybe they inherited it from a family member, maybe they purchased it while on a special trip, or maybe they built it with their own hands. How ever it came to be, many nativity sets have a special story behind them.
Several of those stories came together recently as Rugby’s First Lutheran Women of the ELCA hosted “Come to the Manger.” The event organizers invited people to bring their nativity sets and display them for the public one Sunday afternoon earlier this month.
Soon the display grew to 30 and, much to the surprise of event organizers, they already have a list of names of those wishing to display their nativity sets at next year’s event.
The display featured an amazing variety of nativity sets. There were sets from South Africa, the Philippines and two from Mexico. There were sets made by hand in someone’s workshop and sets made at the Fisher Price toy factory. There were sets made of clay and some of crystal. Many have special meaning to their owners.
Those who stopped by to view the sets were able to read a short background about each set.
Jan Norsby, one of the event coordinators, had heard about another area church who hosted a similar event and brought the idea to the women’s group. She also brought her special nativity set for display. The rather large set was one she had created in ceramics class in 1973. The stable was made by her husband, Ray, with the wood coming from the barn on her family farm near Newburg, where she grew up.
She recalls that the set took quite some time to finish and it has a place of honor reserved in her house each holiday season. She would like to pass the set onto her children one day, but knows that it will be a difficult decision since it’s such a special part of every family Christmas.
“We have two daughters and a son and they all want it,” Jan said. “I haven’t decided who’s getting it, but all they know is that they can’t separate it.”
There were many nativity sets on display with special family memories attached. One set, belonging to church members Rocky and Jeanne Kukla, was made by their now adult daughter when she was just three- and-a-half years old. Another belonging to Pastor Sharon Baker was made in made in the holy land and constructed from olive wood. It was given to her as a gift on the occasion of her ordination in 1987. Alan and Harriet Kreklau’s nativity set was their first as a married couple and has been displayed in their home for every Christmas. Joy Lavik displayed a wooden set her husband, Richard, had made for her.
Elsie Davidson, whose personal collection includes more than 100 nativity sets, had a few on display including a set from Alaska and one from South Africa.
Leah Johnson, who served as one of the event hostesses, had three of her nativity sets on display. One was a tea set that her mother had purchased for her when she graduated from high school with the intention that she would pass it on to her daughter when she had one someday.
She also brought the first set her parents had when they got married. Leah’s mom had collected about a dozen nativity sets over the years and when she passed away seven years ago, Leah inherited them.
“Mom’s idea was that the nativity sets were to be touched and children were to be able to play with them,” Leah said. “The one set still has our fingerprints on it from when my siblings and I played with it all the years growing up.”
Event coordinators were pleasantly surprised at how the event turned out the first time around, and look forward to making it an annual event each holiday season.
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