The nativity pictures are a favorite subject of artists. Many American artists have drawn their inspiration from the classic European paintings and early Bible illustrations. The nativity scene is not only represented through illustrations and paintings, but around the world the nativity is brought to life by churches and other groups. The first live reproduction of the outside Christmas nativity of a church is given to St. Francis of Assisi for the event he staged in Greccio, Italy, in 1223. Since then, the practice has spread around the world in pageants, church reproductions, neighborhood rituals such as the posada, professionally staged plays where huge casts including live animals are utilized, and of course the school plays where sometimes the imaginative interpretations of the script provides highly original versions of the events. There are several vast collections of the nativity in palaces and museums.
The worlds largest is a Swiss nativity production, the Diorama Bethlehem in Einsiedeln, http://www.diorama.ch/english/default.htm which reproduces the Bethlehem and stocks it with hundreds of carved figures. It not only illustrates the birth of Jesus, but also the message of the angel to the shepherds, the journey by the three kings, and the flight of the Holy Family into Egypt.
Although the story is long old, the message is clear for us. Our own Nativity scenes which rest under our Christmas trees are a visible reminder of that night when our Savior was born. May we never forget to see in our hearts the little Babe of Bethlehem, who came to save us from sin. We must never forget that the wood of the manger that held Him so securely would one day give way to the wood of the cross.