A manger scene serves as the foundation of meaning of Christmas. It is a visual embodiment of the story of the birth of Jesus Christ, as told in the New Testament in the books of Matthew and Luke.

The visual depiction is an international symbol and one that will be on display Saturday as First United Methodist Church (FUMC) and the United Methodist Women (UMW) invite the community to "Come to the Stable."

It is an annual event that began three years ago, according to Dee Dee Jone, UMW member. 

"At that time we were having a meeting and discussing the Christmas activities on the square," Jones said. "The renovation of our sanctuary was still new and since we were fortunate to have our church on the square, we decided to host an event that would put Christ back into Christmas in our community."

The group decided to invite attendees of the city's annual Christmas celebration to walk a block from the square and see the beautiful sanctuary and various nativity scenes on display.

Last year, more than 60 nativities from ornate to tiny renditions that were purchased from around the world lined sanctuary walls.

This year, UMW coordinated the event to coincide with Christmas activities, inviting community members to view the display from noon until 5 p.m.    

For many church and community members who lend their nativities to the event, fond memories are also put on display. 

"You will find a few that are very child like," Jones said "Some of us recall them as the first nativities our kids or grandkids had. Many people who have retired and traveled extensively offer really interesting, different displays from Mexico or other places around the world."

Now matter how unique, each tells the story of Joseph and a pregnant Mary who were offered shelter in a barn when Mary gave birth to Jesus. Angels, shepherds and their herds and three wise men from the east were among those who flocked to the stable to witness the Christmas miracle. 

The tradition was started by St. Francis of Assis who created the first "creche" or nativity to help explain the birth of Jesus to his followers, FUMC Pastor Billy Strayhorn said.

"Very few people read at that time," Strayhorn said. "He used characters to tell the story of the birth of Christ, sort of like ancient multimedia, rather than simply leaving his followers to visualize the story."

Since that time, various renditions from around the world have been carved in wood and stone, etched in glass, sculpted in clay and been crafted in various forms and fashions.

"Ours is a very eclectic collection," Jones said. "And we hope it is one the whole community will enjoy." 

As UMW hopes the event will bring the community together to pay homage to the meaning of the season, the nativity teaches a story that can be understood by followers young and old, from any culture and speaking any language in mediums that know few boundaries.