Archives for December 2011

Nativities and Writing


Creche image from

Creche image from

Each year as the Christmas festivities come to an end, my husband and I vow to start celebrating Christmas earlier the following year. Inevitably, however, the first days of December manage to slip by, “un-Christmased.”  

Unfortunately, that’s also true this year. We have yet to “deck the halls with boughs of holly” (figuratively – I’m not sure where to even look for holly boughs…). But despite our failed efforts to start Christmas early, we have at least taken a first step to get in that special – and sometimes difficult-to-achieve – Christmas spirit: on Sunday, our little family attended the annual Christmas Creche exhibit in a church meetinghouse close by. I am happy to report that the elusive Christmas Spirit made a grand appearance at this feast for the eyes!

If you are currently in the Bay Area, visiting the exhibit – which boasts 500 nativities from 80 countries – is a must (but hurry: it ends tomorrow!) Though the exhibit centers around a single theme – the Nativity – the number of variations on that theme boggled my mind. A nativity made of legos (14,000 of them if I remember correctly) – why didn’t I think of that? And apparently baby Jesus is Asian! No, African! No, South American! (Though perhaps not historically accurate, I love that the peoples of the world are so eager to adopt Christ as one of their own!)

As I thought more about how much artistic diversity can sprout from a single (and pretty narrow) theme, I realized the same concept applies to writing. How many stories have been written on the theme love, for example? Gazillions? Yet we never seem to tire of reading about love. Perhaps this is because even though the stories explore the same theme, the diversity with which the authors approach the theme makes it stay fresh and current.

The creche exhibit helped me realize something else. If someone asked me which of the nativities at the exhibit was “the best,” it would have been impossible for me to answer. Never mind best – I couldn’t even pick a favorite! I liked them all, for different reasons. In fact, I don’t think anybody – no matter how creche-qualified – could possibly make a “true” judgement about which creche at the exhibit was “the best.” Sure, the porcelain creche from the Vatican was extraordinary. But the creche made of seed pods was extraordinary in a completely different way!

Message for me: I don’t have to be “the best writer” because really, is there even such a thing? Granted, “the best” is a very iffy concept, but I hope you get my meaning. As humans, we enjoy diversity. We appreciate different aspects of  different things (we like the characters in this book, we like the way we feel when we read that book). In most cases, it’s not helpful to compare our personal “creches” to others’ because, in most cases, they are not directly comparable! We should be more worried about “doing our best” than “being the best.”

Hm. Writing really does teach me about life, and life about writing. And for that (and for creches and what they depict), I am grateful.