If Not Santa, What?

How will our home look if our celebration is a picture of anticipation and waiting for God’s plan to be completed, a picture of our joy in the salvation he has begun for us? What visible things will fill our house as we celebrate what God has done through Jesus?

Our very first Christmas was in the middle of our honeymoon, so our traditions began the second year of marriage. We visited our families before Christmas, and returned across the country to our small place late at night on December 21. We didn’t have any decorations, the time was short, and our budget was limited, so we decided not to buy a tree. I had found a tiny nativity set at an international gift shop.

On Christmas morning, the two of us sat on the floor beside a low, small table with that creche between us. Christmas carols played softly from the radio as we opened each other’s gifts. It seemed exactly right that Jesus be the visible center.

So every year since then, a special crèche has been the focal point of our celebration. We arrange it on a table and collect our gifts underneath. I usually use a colorful length of material from a missions setting as a table cover. This table is often the gathering place for our family devotions during December. Anyone who visits sees can see that this is the center of our celebration.


We also use a manger scene as part of our Advent candle arrangement, so the focus of our waiting is visible before us. Other uses for a crèche might be:

  • As an unbreakable set for the children to play with.
  • As manger scene ornaments for the Christmas tree.
  • As a stained glass or colored cellophane window arrangement, visible from the street.
  • As a play corner with toy lamb, baby doll and appropriate dress-ups

One friend told me about her crèche collection.

I try to find one in every place I visit. I give traveling friends $20 to spend on a nativity for me if they happen to see one where they are going. I find them at garage sales and thrift stores and after-Christmas sales, and people give them to me as gifts. I have more than a hundred now from all over the world, and when I get them out for Christmas it is a wonderful reminder that one day people from all tribes and tongues and people and languages—not just my own country—will worship the King.

They’re my favorite sort of keepsake when I’m traveling too. And I look for them at special prices after Christmas. But I have no idea how many I have because I keep giving them away.

One thing has changed from earlier years. When Talitha joined our family, I realized how often Jesus is portrayed fair and blond, which he most likely wasn’t. Now I look for figures with darker skin and hair or made from a material like wood or clay that doesn’t show skin tone.

I want my decorations and celebration to reflect the truth that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, of all peoples.

(Adapted from Treasuring God in Our Traditions)