Monday, December 23, 2013

The Baby, the Manger, and Other Nativity Elements

In our Worship Together (intergenerational, non-traditional, very child friendly) service, we're often doing creative stuff, whether it's a drama of some sort (puppets!), singing, or some arts reaction to the story.  For Advent, we've been following the Advent stories, and yesterday, for our Arts segment, we made a crèche.

Yes, it could have gone terribly wrong.  But in the spirit of full disclosure, let me admit to liking those nativity scenes with strange figures, like a toy dinosaur.  If you're really interested, I wrote this post years ago which also has a poem I wrote on the subject.

But back to yesterday.  We were sent outside to get natural materials and then we'd make our nativity scenes.  Again, in the spirit of full disclosure, let me say from the outset that none of these pictures depict what I made.

I expected to be better at this project; after all, I've contemplated doing something similar before.  I love the variety of crèches that the monks at Mepkin Abbey collect.  I've thought of making my own as an Advent project.

I found part of a pod for a manger.  But what to use as a baby?  I found a cigarette butt, which led to a brief discussion of whether or not it would be appropriate to use.

I said, "I'm a poet.  I could make the symbolism work."  Luckily at that service, I'm surrounded by friends who are fond of me, so they didn't argue too strenuously.  But I did decide not to push the point.  I chose a dirt clump instead.

In the picture above, you can see my hands assembling my crèche.  I'm sitting at the head of the table.  I made a Mary by sticking tiny flowers in the end of a stick, and then I did the same for Joseph (yellow flower for Joseph, purple for Mary).  I thought I was pretty clever--until I saw what others had managed to do with similar resources.

As I looked at the nativity scenes made by other people, I was pierced by a sense of inadequacy.  I said out loud, "Remember, Kristin, it's not a competition."  My art teacher friend gave me a hug at that.


What did we learn by doing all of this?  We had a chance to talk about the figures in traditional crèche scenes, and looked at the 4-6 that people had brought.  We talked about how we came to have these scenes--who is present and who is missing.  We blessed the crèches and the people who had made them.

I think that any project like this one that engages our creativity is a good one.  And while not everyone would go as far as having a cigarette butt Jesus, it does makes us interact with a very familiar story in a new way.  Even if we go back to our traditional scenes, we'll be enriched by our time with our imagination.

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