In 2013, we had a make-a-crèche project with materials we found from outside (for more, see this blog post). We've had very iffy weather, so I decided to take a different approach.
I made baggies with a wine cork, a bottle cap, and a few long pieces of yarn. I'd been collecting some boxes. When people arrived, they got these directions:
I also set out various other elements: pipe cleaners, popsicle sticks, markers, colored paper, a bag of marker lids that had no markers, and some other odds and ends. People went to the closet and got out cups and other supplies. One girl went outside and collected some leaves. People took a variety of approaches to the manger (note the baby Jesus as minimarshmellow with wine cork parents):
We cane up with an amazing diversity of scenes. There were 3 wise men:
There were complete scenes with angels:
There was even a scene with a reindeer (to the right, with popsicle stick antlers):
People gravitated to smaller boxes, the butter boxes, the tea boxes:
Purists might ask, "Well what did you learn?" As we started the session, I asked people to be thinking about what similarities we saw from what we created to the first Christmas story.
We talked about God's ability to take all sorts of trash and turn it into something treasured. I even ventured to say that many people might have seen Mary and Joseph as trashy people, completely expendable. I wanted to press this point, to talk about how we might still be as complicit as seeing people as trash--but I backed off, since we had a shabbily dressed man joining us, and I hesitate to be forceful with children present (I don't censor myself, but I say a few sentences and move on):
We also talked about Mary and Joseph making the best of a bad situation. We talked about how the straw was dirty, but it could still be used to keep them all warm:
So, in the end, did we learn enough to make it worth all the effort? I have resigned myself to never knowing the answer to that question, in church, in my English classes, in any aspect of my life.
But it's an interesting approach, nonetheless, and I have hopes that this approach to the story might help us see it in new ways. The problem with the stories that we're about to hear in all sorts of ways as we move from Advent to Christmas is that we've heard them a lot, and we think we know what's going on. I like a project like this one, which might short circuit our traditional approaches (especially if we're older).