The Putz has become one of the formative activities of my life. By Pastor Roy Ledbetter Photographs Courtesy Pastor Roy Ledbetter
The figure of Francis of Assisi in my Nativity scene kneels with a lamb in his arms. He gazes over towards the manger cradle, as if to quote the words of Dr. Martin Luther: “Awake my heart, my soul, arise. Look Who in yonder Manger lies. Who is that Child so poor and mean? ‘Tis He Who all things doth sustain.” The presence of the “Little Pauper” near the manger should come as no surprise to folks who know their history. Francis of Assisi is credited with putting together the very first Nativity scene in 1223 for the villagers of the little town of Greccio in the Sabine hills of the Apennine Mountains. I am incredibly grateful that he did. The Nativity scene has been one of the formative activities of my whole life from a tiny toddler to a white-haired old man.
I don’t remember the first Christmas tree I ever saw. I do know where it was though, in my grandmother’s house in rural Forsyth County, North Carolina, where we lived with her and aunts and uncles and cousins during the postwar housing shortage. I do know that there was a Nativity scene back in the corner at the foot of the tree, it replaced the Nativity scene destroyed in a house fire just 2 years before on Christmas day. It was one of the first things chosen by my Pennsylvania Dutch grandmother after the fire. I also know that I was dazzled by the Christmas tree, the decorations, the Nativity scene.