Enormous Interfaith Nativity Display Celebrates 30 Years and the Amazing Story Behind It (+Beautiful Photos)

A Christmas Mission

“During the exhibit, if [the missionaries] have investigators or less-active people, they bring them as guests,” Hancock explains. “Last year . . . we designed a handout around 25 ways that you can add peace to your life . . . and we had sister missionaries available to have informal conversations. Guests took more than 3,000 pieces of printed material about Christ and the Church.”Image title

Missionaries from the California San Jose Mission contribute service to help distribute publicity, set-up and clean-up, and welcome guests to the exhibit as hosts.

Local members have had many missionary experiences with friends and neighbors that they’ve invited to the exhibit. Fuchs shares an experience she had with a next-door neighbor. “I had never taken the time to invite her,” she admits. “Then one year they were redoing their landscaping, and so I asked her if we could use some of the tree branches and stones that they were removing.

She asked, ‘Well, what is all this for?’ So she and her husband went down and looked at the exhibit. They were so impressed that the next year they brought friends of their own.” Fuchs is grateful for the positive feelings and friendship the exhibit helps bring about.

Future Growth

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Carvings from Guatemala to Peru to Native American Huichol Indians.

As the Christmas Crèche Exhibit celebrates its 30th anniversary, organizers reflect on the far-reaching impact of what is now the longest-running annual community-led nativity exhibit in the United States. “Over the years, we’ve helped start or have been resources for more than 25 other exhibits around the country,” Fuchs says.

With so much stake and community involvement and so many opportunities to feel the Spirit, it’s no surprise that the missionaries from the California San Jose Mission are also heavily involved in volunteering for the Christmas Crèche Exhibit. This, of course, also leads to many missionary opportunities.

Thousands of viewers have watched the exhibit’s concert series on the local cable television channel. Tens of thousands of people from around the world have engaged on the exhibit’s Facebook page. But at the heart of the exhibit is the hope for each person, regardless of background or age, to feel some measure of the wonder of the Savior’s birth and mission and a loving personal invitation to come to Him. Hancock says, “It just started very simply and has grown organically over time. There’s been such a wonderful response from members of the Church, as well as community members who say, ‘This is really at the heart of what Christmas is and what we can share together.’”

To learn more, including when you can see this year's exhibit, visit christmascreche.org.

Click here to see a sample of some of the most unique nativities displayed at past events.

Lead image and all other images courtesy of the Christmas Creche Archives. Lead image a picture of hand-made nativities sculpted in clay displayed as part of a Bethlehem basket market stall.

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Find this and other uplifting holiday articles in the November/December 2017 LDS Living issue.

Comments and feedback can be sent to feedback@ldsliving.com