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Créche Figures

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given... and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6) From the combined accounts of the Nativity found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, the full cast of Crèche figures may be assembled. Crèche is a word of French origin, but derived from the High German kripja, which means a crib. We use the word today to designate the traditional tableau of the Holy Family and others around the manger in the stable at Bethlehem. The story has inspired many works of art. Christmas Carols, notably Martin Luther’s famous Away in a Manger. Others are Adeste Fidelis, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, We Three Kings, and the immortal Silent Night. Even opera, Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors, and naturally, oratorio, as sacred opera, used the nativity story as a source – Bach’s Christmas Oratorio and Handel’s spectacular Messiah, connected to Christmas as no other piece of music. In the visual arts, much Renaissance and Northern painting uses the crèche tableau as a subject. Tradition and legend have combined to give us the continuing inspirational charm of the story of Christ’s birth, a story as enduring as it is significant, and which is now into its third millennia. Few things have so engaged our popular thought and spirit.