I purchased these two nativity sets in Nairobi, Kenya at a Masi market on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Heather and I had been to church with Dr. Chet and Dolores Wood at Nairobi Chapel and then out to lunch at one of their favorite Chinese establishments. Good memories, those.
The one to the right is made of a single block of wood. The sellers would have a tourist believe that the wood is mahogany — and the coloring looks like the mahogany that we saw on occasion there — but it is not. One of the wood experts we had with us (a guy who is a craftsman/builder) assures me that I did not purchase mahogany for only a few dollars.
When I purchase sets as I travel (as I am known to do on occasion), I like them to be made from materials that are commonly available and typically used in that place. I also like the physical features to reflect the culture and ethnicity of the place. Jesus came–the Word became flesh and dwelled among us. As one of us.
While technically I believe that Jesus was, as Scripture clearly indicates, a Jewish boy from Nazareth, I also believe that it is true to see Jesus as “one of us.” I’m not offended by blond-haired, blue eyed baby Jesus images within a blond-haired, blue eyed culture. However, I am offended (and embarrassed) when the blond-haired, blue eyed culture imposed that image on others as if it is the “right” one.
The nativity below is made from barks and husks. I love the variety of textures and colors in it. Mary and the baby are depicted in a rather traditional way–her kneeling beside him in a manger. But the group of worshippers surrounding them is what makes this one another favorite. They are bringing their best. Shepherds bring livestock–the Masi know about livestock with their lovely herds of cattle and goats. Those who grow produce bring baskets of grain or vegetables. The fisherman brings some of the day’s catch. And then there are the artists–the musicians play their music as a fitting expression of worship.