A Multicultural Nativity

December 19, 2018 by Kathryn Kimball

Throughout Advent we have seen stories of the birth of Jesus as told through the eyes of different cultures. Week one saw St. Francis re-enact the nativity in his 13th century Italian village. Week two featured a paper doll nativity set from Czechsolvokia, and week three told the story of a Peruvian tribe portraying the Christ child with acromegaly, a genetic disorder common to them.

In this final week of Advent, let’s visit a multicultural nativity scene, where staff and visitors selected figures from The Upper Room Museum’s nativity collection and brought them together to form a one-of-a-kind set.  A tall Mayan Magi with a South African penguin at his feet stands beside a Polish camel with a German Magi and an Italian shepherd. A Spanish Joseph kneels with a Swiss Mary, as a Celtic shepherd, an African child, and an American Magi look on, all guarded by a Central American angel and a South African giraffe. German harp and flute players welcome the visitors with music. Talk about the incarnation—the Lord Jesus Christ dwelling among us, with all the peoples of the world.

Through the stories of the nativity sets, we are invited to gaze into the manger to see the face of Jesus through the eyes of many peoples. Let us now change our gaze and consider the view from the Babe of Bethlehem as he looks out from the manger into our faces, a truly multicultural family of God.


Kathryn Kimball is the Museum Collections Manager of The Upper Room’s Christian Art Museum. During the months of November­–January, the museum displays 160 nativity scenes, reflecting more than 40 cultures. Admission is free, and the museum hours are Monday–Friday, 8:00-4:30. 1908 Grand Ave. Nashville, TN 37212. http://chapel.upperroom.org/. 615-340-7207. 

Find out more about St. Francis and the first nativity scene in The Living Nativity, and explore how Christmas carols, Advent wreaths, and other traditions help to prepare our hearts for the birth of the Christ Child. 

For personal growth or for a small-group study, dive deeper into the book through an e-course

Follow URbooks on Instagram and post your favorite nativity scene using the hashtag #MyLivingNativity.

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