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My Favorite Santons
By Mike Whalen
I think most of us are fascinated by the different characters featured in a nativity display. No more so than a collection of French Santons of any size and they come in every size from three inches to fully outfitted figures nearly a foot in height.
Not that any of us cannot relate to being a wiseman, shepherd or angel, it is those ordinary kind of people with whom most of us can identify and who are drawn to the stable and to have sight of the newly born King of Salvation. What is it about their back stories that sound so familiar to us and with whom we feel we have more in common.
I would like to share just a few of my favorites for whom I search in any Santon display.
The Blind Man and his Son: Not sure it is really being nearsighted that makes us appreciate the gift of sight given to this man at the stable for this faith in the baby Jesus. or perhaps his son on whom he leans to get him there safely illustrating on how we all depend on each other to get to where we should be headed.
The Baker: What is it about a bakery shop especially a patisserie that pulls us in to have a look or taste. Smell and sight and of course taste all have a good time there. Our Boulanger has his basket loaded with all kinds of goodies even a special kind of bread loaf called the calendal marked with a cross baked only at Christmas.
The Monk: Not sure its my memories of the Merry Men or my first real paying job in high school painting the garage of the owner of Friar Tuck’s restaurant that makes me look for this jolly monk. Always reflecting to me that there is Joy in Jesus, then and now.
The Vagabond (tramp): I am not sure if it is that romanticized view of a carefree life on the road with a knapsack on a pole slung over one’s back and hoping on the nearest freight train that appeals to most boys but this hobo is welcome at the stable even with nothing to give since he has nothing but himself.
The Praying Man/Woman: Both drop to their knees at the sight and bring the fruits of their labor to offer the newly born King.
The Chimney Sweep: Part of the Mary Poppins generation, who could not be fascinated with all these man’s brooms and brushes and their purposes. A world of darkness and gloom up there has finally seen the light in the Lord, Jesus.
The Glazier : This Traveling repairman mostly windows, an old time SafeLite guy of sorts brings ,his shop to you. He may have a horn or bell to alert all that he is in the neighborhood. He is a constant reminder of the fragility of life that is always in need of repair and healing both physically and spiritually.
The Sailor: For me, the sailor has chosen an uncluttered type of life, limited for the most part what he can carry in his duffle or on his back with no place to keep “things” on a ship. There are some in all religious traditions which they have chosen poverty as a preferred way to come closer to the lord, with no “stuff” to slow them down or worry about.
Man with Sheep: Nearly every nativity set has included a shepherd with a sleep slung on his shoulders. One can speculate why this sheep gets a free ride as it is clearly not a lost lamb. Most likely cause an injury of some sort, perhaps injured in a trap or snatched out of the wolf's jaws just in time. A lesson to all that we all depend on the kindness of strangers and friends at times. It is the human condition.
The Camel Driver: Perhaps the most overlooked person at the manger. The person that keeps the Magi’s camels fed and watered and in charge pf those precious gifts. Without him, the wisemen may have never made it to the manger.
Woman Knitting: How common a sight this is to us. Someone on a bus, in a waiting room or even at one of our conferences listening to a speaker. No idle hands here. Just gazing at the sight of the newly born King brings us peace and a sense of well being and coziness.
Man with a Lantern: Said to be deaf and up there in age, this villager did not hear the shepherds’ call to come see the miracle of Jesus’ birth and is left alone as we all often are. He must set off alone guided only by his lantern to illuminate the darkness of the night.
Where do you see yourself in the Nativity scene? Who would you be and what would you bring?