Ideas for Your Creche or Nativity Scene
Pick a day to get out your Crèche or Nativity scene. I always keep baby Jesus hidden somewhere,
and we will put him in the manger on Christmas Eve. (I also put the Magi with their camels on a shelf on
the other side of the room, since they do not arrive at the scene until Epiphany.)
A fun thing to do to remind younger children to prepare for Jesus’ coming is to
collect straw to go in the manger and stable. Keep a box of straw near the
stable, and when your child does some good deed, he gets to put a piece of straw
in the manger.(or in your stable.) This is one way we can make baby Jesus very
happy and prepare for His coming—and don’t we want a soft and warm stable
and manger for Him? The more straw the better! Yellow paper cut into strips
can work for the straw or I always decorate for fall with a bale of straw, and I use
some of this. It gives your Crèche a nice barn smell.
When your Crèche is out and getting full of straw, it might be nice to tell the story
of St. Francis
and the first Crèche. St. Bonaventure (d. 1274) in his Life of St. Francis of Assisi tells the story the best: . . .
It happened in the third year before his
death, that in order to excite the inhabitants of Grecio to commemorate the nativity of the Infant Jesus with great devotion, [St. Francis] determined to keep it with all possible solemnity; and lest he should be accused of lightness or novelty, he asked and obtained the permission of the sovereign Pontiff. Then he prepared a manger, and brought hay, and an ox and_an ass to the place appointed.
The brethren were summoned, the people ran together, the forest resounded with their voices, and that venerable night was made glorious by many and brilliant lights and sonorous psalms of praise. The man of God [St. Francis] stood before the manger, full of devotion and piety, bathed in tears and radiant with joy; the Holy Gospel was chanted by Francis, the Levite of Christ. Then he preached to the people around the nativity of the poor King; and being unable to utter His name for
the tenderness of His love, He called Him the Babe of Bethlehem. A certain valiant and veracious soldier, Master John of Grecio, who, for the love of Christ, had left the warfare of this world, and become a dear friend of this holy man, affirmed that he beheld an Infant marvelously beautiful, sleeping in the manger, Whom the blessed Father Francis embraced with both his arms, as if he would awake Him from sleep. This vision of the devout soldier is credible, not only by reason of the sanctity of him that saw it, but by reason of the miracles which afterwards confirmed its truth.
For example of Francis, if it be considered by the world, is doubtless sufficient to excite all hearts which are negligent in the faith of Christ; and the hay of that manger, being preserved by the people, miraculously cured all diseases of cattle, and many other pestilences; God thus in all things glorifying his servant, and witnessing to the great efficacy of his holy prayers by manifest prodigies
There are some children’s versions of this story. You will probably find: A GIFT FROM SAINT FRANCIS: THE FIRST CRÈCHE by Joanna Cole at your library.
We also have a Creche that is child friendly, meaning that the children can play with it. They love setting it up and acting out the parts with the figurines.
Here is a brief Youtube from a church that simply tells the St. Francis Crèche
story called The First Crèche (1:30)