Special to The Town Crier

For almost a millennia, the sacred nativity scene has been an integral part of the advent season. From miniature to life sized, the figures of Christ and other important characters remind us of the reason for the season.

Thanks to a temporary accession from the Most Reverend Bishop Reymundo J. Pena, Fifth Bishop of Brownsville, the Museum of South Texas History will display Nativity Scenes from Around the World. This exciting exhibit is only here for a limited engagement and will close in early January.

Bishop Pena has been collecting crèches (French for manger) for 32 years. The collection began with a gift presented to him upon his appointment as bishop of the Rio Grande Valley. His collection has since grown to over 200 nativity sets, and represents over 15 countries around the world. Each scene carries with it a different significance, as many were gifts presented to the bishop on his missionary travels.

St. Francis of Assisi created the first living crèche in a cave in Italy on Christmas Eve 1223. Since then, the scene was placed on display every year, first in churches, then in private homes. Traditionally the crèche includes the baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, Three Wise Men, shepherds, and ox and a donkey. Each figure has a significance, as does their placement in the scene.

“Let is look at the people represented/” Reflect Bishop Pena. “There is the Holy Family, three wise men, and shepherds. The family looks at eachother lovingly and marvels at the miraculous birth. The shepherds are poor working men, they have come responding to an angel’s invitation. They have nothing to give, so they bow and kneel in adoration. Later arrive the three wise men from the east. They are people of means, so they bring significant gifts: gold which signifies the royalty of Jesus, frankincense to remind us of the divinity, and myrrh to underscore the humanity and sacrificial death of the Redeemer.”

Nativity Scenes from Around the Word will be on display at the Museum of South Texas History from mid-December to January. For more information call (956) 383-6911, or visit www.mosthistory.org. The museum is located on the square in downtown Edinburg.