Becky Hunter

Ever since Italy gave it to the White House in the 1960s, this beautiful crèche has graced the East Room at Christmastime. Last week, Joel and I were staring at the intricately detailed terracotta and wood tableau. We had seen it many times, but this time, as we stood there, I started thinking how shocked a woodcarver, who lived in Italy in the 1700s, would be to know that today his stunning work sits in a place of honor an ocean away from his workshop. Surely it never crossed his mind that his dedication to perfecting each of those 44 pieces would draw the attention of thousands of people to a Jesus-centered scene, but even centuries later, that’s exactly what’s happening!  Last December alone almost 70,000 people walked into the East Room, where this crèche is a focal point — and it has been sitting there being a blessing to people for 50 Decembers!

Replicas of baby Jesus in a manger, placed in homes around this world, might seem unlikely stirrers of the heart: and yet, they do stir. Maybe a crèche appeals to us because the baby Jesus is just big enough to capture our hearts, but not really big enough to challenge us to do anything in addition to holding Him close. That Jesus in the manger is, though, the same Jesus who, three decades later, challenged the pharisees, healed the sick, and raised the dead. He is our Savior, the One who conquered death and now sits at the right hand of the Father in Heaven. Coming together around His earthly manger is so much easier to imagine than gathering around His heavenly throne! God definitely displays His wisdom in the simple appeal of that time He spent in a manger.  

I am grateful for that long ago woodcarver and the reminder inherent in the crèche he made. Jesus is always at the center of the nativity because the One in the manger is equally accessible to all. Few of us are gifted woodcarvers, but all of us have gifts and talents we can use to show Jesus at the center of our efforts. And we never know, maybe hundreds of years from now someone just might get a glimpse of Jesus when they least expect it, simply because we made sure that He was at the center of our best efforts.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it.  – Matthew 11:28 (The Message)