Herald JournalHoward Lake-Waverly Herald, Dec. 9, 2002

Meaning of Christmas? Look no further than a local front lawn

By Lynda Jensen

The true meaning of Christmas can be found arranged on the front lawn of many local homes.

In fact, nativities ­ complete with stables, the Christ child, Mary, Joseph, and various participants of the first Christmas, are gaining popularity as figures in Christmas lighting displays, since more and more are springing up year after year.

Several of the larger nativities have been around for decades, and are enjoyed by many grandchildren as well as passersby.

For example, Melvin and Marian Frank, 1000 Ninth St. in Howard Lake, faithfully show an elaborate wooden display each year since 1983.

This year, the Franks outdid themselves by erecting a shower of Christmas lights leading to the Star of David above their usual nativity stable scene.

Also new is a drummer boy with "moving" hands (with the help of rotating lights), standing beside the usual 50-plus figures, such as animals walking (also with the help of blinking, rotating lights).

The lighted sign "Happy Birthday Jesus" can be seen every year, just like clockwork.

"That's what it's all about," Marian said of the nativity.

The animal figures are meant to be shown praising God, she said.

The display was originally a collection started by Marian's father, Ben Klima, she said.

Her husband adds to the display as the years go by with his wood cutting skills, she said.

Another large nativity display can be seen every year in Montrose at the Florence Rasset residence, located at the west end of Montrose, along Highway 12.

The display was obtained in 1966, and has been shown in Montrose since then, she said.

Originally, the figures started out as big color pictures on heavy paper, she said. They were transferred onto heavy plywood and have been on display ever since, she said.

"It's halfway worn out," she said, although the nativity appears to be in very good shape for its age.

No fewer than 24 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren enjoy the Rasset nativity, along with busy travelers from Highway 12.

Another established nativity is Harvey Drusch's home in Howard Lake, which was obtained a decade ago, when his wife, the late Lorraine Drusch, was still alive.

The stable was fashioned from sawmill wood, and his children helped obtain the shepherds, he said.

Fifteen Drusch grandchildren enjoy the display.

Stables: an American tradition?

Legend has it that the real location of Jesus Christ's birth may have been a cave, on display in Israel at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

During the time of Christ's birth, caves were used to keep animals in because of the intense heat in that region. Wood was not used as widely as it is today.

The cave site of the Nativity in Bethlehem was identified by St. Justin Martyr, a second century Christian apologist.

The Church of the Nativity is one of the oldest Christian churches in existence. During the Crusades, it was a primary place of pilgrimage.

The church is visited by thousands of people each year.

Americans came up with the wooden stable version of the nativity later, according to different sources.

Photos of this chapel site can be seen on the Internet at www.sacredsites.com

Of course, that nativity is based on the witness of Matthew and Luke. Here is the Luke version, which is more detailed:

Now it came about in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth.

This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.

And all were proceeding to register for the census, everyone to his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register, along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child.

And it came about that while they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth.

And she gave birth to her first-born son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

And in the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night

And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terribly frightened.

And the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths, and Iying in a manger."

And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

"Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased."

And it came about when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds began saying to one another "Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us."

And they came in haste and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger.

And when they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child.

And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds.

But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.

And the shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.

Luke 2:1-20

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