If you’ve ever helped to set up our church for Christmas, and there are many of you, you have noticed that having a nativity scene is a prominent part of our Advent, Christmas, and sometimes, Easter, celebrations. Through our 19 years as Wellspring, we’ve had several nativity sets to remind us of the everlasting story of Jesus birth. Some sets have survived the years of candle drips, faded faces, broken limbs and other accidental falls. Some sheep and camels were lost, but Robbie, our faithful Wellspring caregiver, still kept each surviving piece lovingly wrapped in towels in its own carefully labeled storage box.
In knowing that I have a passion for the nativity story as expressed in art and history. I was asked to choose the Wellspring nativity scene for Jesus’ 2,020th birthday. This was daunting to think of since there was not enough time to reflect and places to order the perfect figures, because it had to be special and meaningful.
What results is the nativity set that graces our home all year long. I found this set in Baguio City, Philippines, in a wood carver’s back workshop. He explained that it was made of Philippine mahogany, and its scale and size meant it was designed to be in a church. I noticed its facial and hand expressions, its strong features of reverence and grace, and the vulnerability of baby Jesus that invited touch and nurturing. I was especially pleased to meet the artist wood carver himself, for I often wonder of the worshipful thoughts that go through the mind of an artist, and how one decides to retell Christ’s story according to his cultural understanding. wanted him to know that his art will inspire and encourage others, and asked him to carve his name on a piece. I thought he would sign the most important baby Jesus figure with a flourished signature, but instead, he took out his pocket knife, and scratched his name “John” in humble stick lines on the bottom of the Joseph piece.
Our grandchildren cannot help but to touch and rearrange the sheep. They have exchanged the shepherd sticks with flowers and take care of the baby Jesus by dressing Him with beads, pebbles and twigs. These figures stand near our front door, and is shared as the landing area for keys, mail, towels, cat medicine and whatever is part of our family’s everyday life. Just like you, you have been part of our everyday lives as we have ministered and served each other. I will feel the loss and absence of these reminders, and I ache to give up their presence in our home.
But love requires this sacrifice, and that I let go to allow God’s work to take its further course and presence in you at Wellspring. I ache more for the physical presence to be among you, my family, but know that we are with each other in thought, heart and spirit. Please receive these as a token of our love and Aloha for you, dear Wellspring.