The stable or manger that houses the figurines is called a creche. The term creche has interesting origins I found several explanations.
One is that it is from the Latin word cripia which is also the origin of the term crib.
Another is that it is the French word for manger. I�ve been told that the French word comes from the Italian word Greccio, which was the town where a creche was constructed by St. Francis of Assisi in 1223. Before that time many churches built mangers that were covered with gold, silver and jewels. St. Francis� creche was not the first manger scene but he wanted to remind people that Jesus was born in a humble stable where animals were kept. He set up a manger and some straw in a cave and brought in an ox and a donkey. He and the people of Greccio met in this cave on Christmas Eve and acted out Jesus� birth by candlelight.
What I'm really interested in is what the creche and Nativity set represents and the meaning it has for us today. The book of Luke tells us that when Mary gave birth to Jesus, she wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger because there was no room in the inn. It was a simple birth in a dirty place but the angels announced it and the shepherds and wise men came. God came into our dirty world to change our lives forever.
You may want your Nativity scene to be as realistic as possible, complete with stable, straw and animals. In this way it is a reminder that Jesus left the glory of His heavenly home and came into lowly surroundings so that He could reach us in our lowly circumstances.
Or you may want an elegant scene made of fine china or of gold and covered with jewels. This may be your reminder of the great value that you place on the King of kings.
Whether constructed of gold or of cardboard, the creche is a place to remember the true reason for the Christmas season. God became flesh and came into the world to be with us and to give us eternal life with Him.
With these thoughts in mind, I think that I will change my after Christmas tradition just a little. This year, after all the festivities are over, when I am wrapping the figurines of Mary and Joseph and the sheep and the shepherds for storage, I think I will keep one figurine out. I will place the baby Jesus back on the mantel where he will stay until next year. I'll keep him there as a reminder that the Christ of Christmas is with us not only during the month of December but all year round.
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