SPOTLIGHT - Manger Scenes that Inspire

SPOTLIGHT - Manger Scenes that Inspire


Barnstable Church Finds a Unique Way to Remind People that Jesus is the Reason for the Season 

One of the many manger scenes that promote comfort and joy
One of the many manger scenes that promotes comfort and joy


One day Reed Baer, pastor of West Parish of Barnstable, UCC,  was driving down a scenic coast road admiring a crèche he passed when it suddenly occurred to him that many people have a crèche of their own, each treasured, each with their own story and memories.  He was inspired and thought it would be a great idea if folks could share the beauty and the stories with each other, using electronic media in a daily devotional way.

Baer believed that by asking church members to send in the pictures and stories, they would be taking some time out of their day to consider the religious significance of the season.  He hoped that while they were thinking about Mary, and Joseph, and Jesus, they would contemplate what it might mean for them.

“I think it is a novel way of reaching out to remind people of ‘the reason for the season,’ and to include them in that process as well,” said Baer.

Baer started asking folks to send him pictures of a crèche they own, together with any thoughts on where it came from and why it was special to them.  He then started sending an email per day out to the church mailing list with the picture, the story, and a quote from Scripture or a Christmas carol. To reach a wider audience, he then put it up on the church Facebook page.  (He anticipates that next year he will post it on Instagram, but admits he’s reaching the limits to this technological expertise!).

The ‘program’ has been a big hit, garnering over 24 submissions to date.  He expects to have enough posts to get through Epiphany.

Creche scene 2Suzanne McMillan, a member of the church, sent a picture of her crèche, which had something more than sheep and cows in the picture.  Across the baby Jesus was stretched a piece of duct tape.  McMillan explained that one year her young child noticed that the baby Jesus was missing, but McMillan was so busy decorating and cleaning and working, she did not have time for a missing Baby Jesus! As time passed it was more and more heartbreaking to see the empty manger and McMillan realized that in her busy-ness she had done her part in “disappearing” that little plastic baby.

“As Christmas miracles go, a few hours before family was to arrive I did one more swipe through our little house, knocking down dust when I spotted Baby Jesus,” explained McMillan.  “There he was, upside down laying on top of a curved dresser leg. I quickly wiped the baby clean and put him back in his little plastic bed.  For the next decades something else came out with the shepherds and wise men every year… a roll of duct tape to hold Baby Jesus as a reminder of Who is the reason for our season.”
Creche 3On Crèche Share Day 5, there was a contribution by member Sarah Wyatt, who found an outdoor creche decorated in a mix of American Gothic and futuristic Robo-cop motif. She found the appropriate quote to go with it: "I shall stand at my post, I shall take up my position on the watchtower, keeping a look-out to learn what God says to me." Habakkuk 2:1

“Although I didn’t participate in this event that joyfully ushers us through Advent to the blessed birth, I looked forward to marveling at each creative crèche,” said Robin Joyce Miller.

Alison Miller (not related to Robin) submitted a picture of her toddler-friendly manger composed of felt characters.  According to Alison, her daughter Amelia loves snuggling up to all of them, especially Baby Jesus.

Now that’s an inspiration to us all during this Advent season.

You can reach Reed Baer at the church office at 508-362-4445 or email

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Source: Massachusetts Conference, United Church of Christ

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Marlene Gasdia-Cochrane

Marlene Gasdia-Cochrane writes news articles for the SNEUCC website. She is also the editor of the Starting With Scripture newsletter. Contact her if: Your church has a great story to tell about an innovative ministry.

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