Nativity sets show simplicity of Christmas

Nativity sets show simplicity of Christmas


Msgr. Raymond E. Riffle says he has an affinity for Nativity sets.

That’s quite obvious from the display of 30-50 sets in the rectory at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral Parish, Greensburg, during the Christmas season.


“My affinity comes from the fact that it’s a single scene that teaches us about God’s willingness to become one of us,” said Msgr. Riffle, rector at the cathedral parish since 2010. “It’s a setting that reminds us that in becoming one with us, He chose to unite himself with the simple life, the humble life, the life of hard work and the life of love. You can see that in almost every Nativity set that exists.”

A Nativity scene, or crèche, depicts the birth of Jesus.

Legend has it that the first crèche was put together by St. Francis of Assisi. He was concerned that the meaning of Christmas was becoming lost. To him, people appeared to be focused on gift giving instead of the true message of Christmas.

“It’s a very simple reminder of the birth of Jesus and the particular way that Jesus was born,” Msgr. Riffle said. “He was born in a stable, laid in a manger, which was basically a feeding trough for the animals. He was surrounded by simple people who were united by the call of the angels to come and see the newborn king.”

Three of the Nativity sets hold special meaning for Msgr. Riffle.

One he calls the most extensive of the collection — a Lenox First Christmas set.

“The importance of it is the fact that each of the pieces was gifted to me by family and friends,” Msgr. Riffle said. “Every time I put it out during the Christmas season, I’m reminded of the constant support of family and friends all through the year.”

Another is his smallest — the “Nativity in a Matchbox,” which is exactly as described. It was given to Msgr. Riffle by Ann Badach, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Erie.

“It reminds me of the work of Catholic Charities and the care and concern that God had for us in the Incarnation; and we as followers of Jesus are required to reach out to one another, particularly those in need,” Msgr. Riffle said. “Size really is not what is important. As long as you have faith, as God tells us, you can move mountains.”

The third that stands out for him was in his parents’ home for as long as he can remember. He got a little emotional when talking about the Nativity set, recalling special times with his adoptive parents.

“It reminds me of their love, and the fact that being an adopted person, God’s love adopts each and every one of us as his son or daughter,” Msgr. Riffle said. “It’s a constant reminder of the great grace I had from my parents.”


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