by Christina Isenhower

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

Luke 2:11-12

Growing up, my family had quite the elaborate Christmas tradition. Every Christmas Eve, our neighborhood lights up the night with luminarias, so we got alot of traffic and walkers out to see those lights. Each year, my family would host a live nativity scene, in our front yard. It wasn’t advertised, it wasn’t affiliated with a church, we weren’t raising money. My parents just thought it would be meaningful to stand out in the cold for 2 hours with all the friends we could recruit, dress up in Bible clothes and stand around a manger. My mother, having a drama background, had shepherd, angel, and wise men costumes for all ages that she had collected and made over the years. My father even borrowed sheep, and one year, a goat from a local farmer to make our scene that much more authentic. This tradition started when I was in grade school, but continued even into high school. Being one of three girls, I’ve acted all the roles, from shepherd to wise man.  And as a rule, you could not be the same character 2 years in a row, because of course, the sisters all fought to be Mary and hold the baby doll. I remember even in my teen years, thinking that wearing a wise man beard, crown and purple shawl, may not be the coolest thing to be doing on Christmas Eve. So of course, I made all my best friends participate so that they couldn’t mock me.

You know why I think the front yard live nativity scene lasted for 10+ years?  Besides my enthusiastic father, I think it was the reaction we would get from the shocked viewers driving by.  The people who were out driving and walking in the neighborhood expected to see the luminarias and that’s it.  Most people who happened upon our live nativity would shout out in shocked delight, “Merry Christmas!” “Wow!” or “Thanks so much!”  Alot of people got out of their cars to pet the sheep and to see if baby Jesus was real. We even got plenty of on lookers come back 30 minutes later and bring us home baked goodies. Funny how surprised people were to see a simple manger scene on Christmas Eve. Even if a front yard nativity is a little odd, looking back I can appreciate it. Dressed as an angel with wings, shivering in a tree, I couldn’t help but meditate on how amazing God coming to earth as a baby really was.

Your family traditions may not be as extreme as mine, but what can you do to make this Advent season meaningful?