It's subtle, but behind the Nativity scenes that fill six rooms of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in northwest Oklahoma City hides a challenge: Find a medium, a style or even a cultural interpretation of the manger scene that isn't already on display.
The catch? Bragging rights will not be bestowed unless you bring it in next year and donate it to the collection.
The “Glory to the Newborn King” collection contains more than 600 pieces.
“We wanted to do something that would demonstrate our belief in the Savior,” explained Paul Baclawski, a senior church leader. “We do a lot of stuff as a church and this is a way to reach out to other faiths and have them enjoy the season with us.”
Most of the scenes on display are traditional dioramas, but even those are varied. In some, the manger is as weightless as a computer chip, tucked inside a tiny water globe or Christmas ornament.
Others are quite expansive, both in set size and in scope, including one that features five different buildings and dozens of nameless residents who must have lived and worked in Bethlehem.
Most are traditional, but some are not, such as a Lego scene, created by a 9-year-old member of the congregation, or the adjacent “Peanuts”-themed scene, featuring Woodstock wrapped in swaddling clothes and Snoopy as a lamb witness.
Carin Christensen, Nativity director, said variances between the pieces are indicative of the multitude of interpretations of the story.
“It just kind of shows you the way we think isn't always the same way everybody else thinks,” she said.
An international room features sets from as far as Japan and Africa, including an Eskimo-themed porcelain scene from Alaska and a tiny scene constructed inside a Nicaraguan clay pot.
A room of handmade scenes includes Nativities inside candle blocks, stuffed dolls or figurines built of upside-down terra cotta pots.
Baclawski said the Nativity display started small nearly a decade ago but has been operating full force for three years in a row.
Church members and volunteers bring their sets in for the display, and while browsers peruse the different rooms other members of the church entertain with traditional Christmas songs.
“There's quite frankly a spirit that comes with this that you don't get any other time of year,” he said. “You won't see any commercialization, you won't see Santa Claus. This gives us the opportunity to focus on the real meaning of Christmas and the Christmas spirit.”
IF YOU GO
‘Glory to the Newborn King'
“Glory to the Newborn King” wraps up Sunday, with scenes on display from 1 to 9 p.m. and a choral performance set for 7 p.m. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-