07 Dec Nativity Scene- A Symbol of the Season

We can all recognize the signs of the holiday season approaching; Christmas trees, oversized stocking hung from the fireplace and force-feeding yourself more chocolate goodies than you ever thought possible.  Another often seen sign of this anticipated time of year is the nativity scene.  Many nativity scenes are simply of the babe Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes and cradled in the arms of the Virgin Mary with a protective Joseph standing above them but can expand to include the three wise men, farm animals and even the star that announced the Son of God was being born.

The nativity scene is a visual depiction of the Holy Bible’s books of Matthew and Luke.  The gospels describe Jesus being born in the little town of Bethlehem where he was laid in a manger because there was no room in the inn.  Angels proclaimed him a savior of the world for all people to come and adore.  The story continues with the wise men following the star to Bethlehem to bring Jesus expensive gifts.  Meanwhile the King Herod, ruler of the land, hears of the future king and orders a massacre of all the toddler boys in Bethlehem, the family flees safely and later settles in Nazareth safely.

Although this biblical story has been present since the creation of the Bible it is a man named Saint Francis of Assisi who is credited for creating the first three dimensional nativity scenes in 1223.  Saint Francis was an Italian catholic who, later in life, had a vision that he must return to his homeland, where he lost his taste for worldly life and began seeking spiritual order.  Eventually Saint Francis withdrew from society completely and began preaching the Catholic doctrine.  Saint Francis created the nativity scene as an effort to cultivate the worship of Christ within those around him.

Eventually the scene’s popularity became common in Western culture, Inspiring works of art all over the world from tabletop displays to life-size recreations of the biblical scene.  Today it is one of the most recognized signs that the Christmas season is upon us.

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