"Creche" is a French word and I'll tell you it's original meaning in a moment. But first, Creche also has a couple meanings besides the nativity. It can refer to a day care center or a "foundling hospital" where children are taken care of by someone other than their parents.
In Zoology it refers to the practice of some animals to care for the young ones of another in the colony. For instance, lions often do this for defensive purposes. one or two lionesses will care for several young that aren't theirs so other lionesses can be involved in hunting or protection of the pride of lions. (A "Pride" is a lion colony.)
There are also some birds, including penguins, who do this, and a breed of crocodile called the Spectacled Caiman. (I don't think it actually wears spectacles.) So its like a "day care" for animals. The operative idea is one of certain beings taking care of the children of another. Interesting how that fits in with Joseph and Father God.
But back to the word "Creche." It is french for manger, or feeding trough. It has nothing to do with the care of babies or children, except of course that Mary laid the Son of God, the Messiah, in a manger.
Some say it was St. Francis of Assisi who first put together a Creche. It was a living representation of the manger scene formed to promote the worship of Christ and celebrate his humble birth.
Unfortunately there is that little often overlooked command of God that says in Ex 20:4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing in heaven above, or beneath the earth , or in the water... And to shed light on that: Lev 26:1 Ye shall make you no idols nor graven image, neither rear you up a standing image, neither shall ye set up any image of stone in your land, to bow down unto it: for I am the LORD your God.
So what do we do about pictures of Jesus? Or carvings of Jesus on the cross, or in a manger? After all "Graven" would include a carving, or and image stamped in metal, and by extension, even a painting. (I was going to include photo, but alas, there are no photos of Jesus.)
First, we need to be careful with them. I wouldn't have them in a room intended for Christian worship. Now the carving of a baby in a manger maybe so small as to be unseeable at a distance, and if that's the case I'm not going to be legalistic about this. But one reason I prefer an empty cross to one with a body attached is I don't want us to ever confuse who we are worshiping. There are other reasons for the empty cross to be sure, but the words, "No graven image" tend to resound in my brain.
I have seen a number of paintings depicting Jesus as a shepherd, healer, teacher, or hanging on a cross, that were very moving, beautiful! But I wouldn't have one at the front of the room - as a point of focus- dedicated to worship of God, because its not God, it's just a picture. And God wants us to be very careful about this.
So, we'll have a "Creche" in our church during this season. And hopefully it will stir up gratefulness in our hearts for the one who left the splendor of heaven and came to a dirty fallen wicked world, to die on a cross for us. And as much as I appreciate a nativity scene, I also appreciate the simplicity of a Cradle, a Cross, and a Crown.
Merry Christmas y'all! Clark