Manger scene

The outlines of snowy mountains rise above the still lake. Stars shine in the cold winter sky. Candles flicker among some of the tombstones as we make our way down the steep cemetery steps. Here and there small patches of frozen snow remind us that we have to tread carefully. The ringing of the church bells grows into a storm of sound as we approach the 18th century church precariously perched on the hillside. We enter. It is warm inside.
The church is dimly lit. We´ve come to look at the manger scene. But it is not just any manger scene. It makes its way around the entire chancel area in a large panorama. Hundreds of hand-made figures the size of small puppets illustrate ancient stories. What I notice immediately is the accurate portrayal of ancient clothes and household materials. Someone has done their research and is showing the world of Jesus’ time with these models. There are miniature jars, baskets, spindle whorls, and hand mills. Through these scenes we can imagine life in times gone by. As I walk and sit in the quiet church the relevance of archaeology, and especially Biblical Archaeology, comes into focus. It allows us to more truthfully imagine the past, to connect more accurately with what our heritage. It sheds light on a way of life and a period in history that were determinative for life today and for crucial aspects of our culture. And if the most significant event in history happened in first century Judea, then a scene like that helps us to understand that past. It also serves as a reminder of the otherness of that time. Jesus was not born into 18th-century Europe, was not born into 20th-century America or 21st-century New Zealand. Figures of Roman-period Judea in a Swiss church. To me it is symbolic of the strong connection between Ancient Israel and our own world.

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1 Response to Manger scene

  1. Pingback: Bethlehem inculturated | Imagining the past: Archaeology and the Bible

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