Randall Donner
Randall Donner, Communications Senior Professional

Nativity Set Comes Home

St. Francis of Assisi created the first nativity scene in 1223, according to Smithsonian Magazine. That’s 800 years of the familiar scene with a baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph (and sometimes a cast of dozens counting an angel, the shepherds, Magi and animals).

That often-depicted scene is set up in the homes of many Christians each Christmas. Some of those home nativity sets have a direct tie to Mosaic—they were created at Martin Luther Home’s ceramic workshop. One of those sets made many years ago has made its way back to Mosaic.

Here’s a little history. In 1966, Martin Luther Home in Beatrice, Nebraska, opened a vocational workshop for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. (Martin Luther Home and Bethphage joined to create Mosaic in 2003.) It was said to be the first of its kind in the country to train people with vocational skills, so they could then return to their hometown and find employment. 

A brochure about the workshop read, in part, “… the trainee will work in the woodshop, in the ceramics shop, in plastic production, at a loom, on the farm, or in the domestic training area. The important thing is that he learns how to do a job.” Photos in the Mosaic archives depict residents learning those skills.

In 1978, a young woman from Colorado Springs, Colorado, traveled to Beatrice, Nebraska, to work at Martin Luther Home. She worked there about a year and returned home to Colorado Springs, but not before purchasing a number of items from the gift shop, including a nativity set she gave to her aunt and uncle, Kathy and John Hayes. 

“She gave it to us in 1979,” John said. “We have displayed it most years since.”

John and Kathy moved around quite a bit—he had a career in the Air Force. So the nativity set traveled with them and was set up in their home in several different states and two foreign countries. The last few years, however, they displayed a nativity set they purchased on a trip to the Holy Land instead.

The couple chose Colorado Springs for their retirement. There, they became aware the local Mosaic was once named Martin Luther Homes. (In 1979, at the request of several families, Colorado Springs was the first place Martin Luther Homes expanded into community services.) Around last Christmas, they decided to part with the nativity set and felt Mosaic in Colorado Springs would be a good place for it. 

“I was confused when John first told me the set was a Mosaic piece. I’d never seen anything from the workshop before,” said Emily Plotkin, Mosaic community relations manager. “But when I reached out to confirm its origin, I was so shocked and excited I was squealing! It’s like the nativity scene found its way back home after receiving years of love and care from John and Kathy.”

It seems an appropriate ending for a Christmas story: home for the holidays.

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