Today in Washington DC, the U.S. Postal Service will issue the Nativity stamp which features a peaceful, yet powerful, image of the Holy Family silhouetted against a dawn sky. The baby Jesus lies in a straw-filled manger in the center of the picture with Mary kneeling to the right and Joseph standing to the left, holding a lantern. A bright star shines over the scene.
The Gospel of Luke relates how Mary and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem to register for the census decreed by the Roman emperor. The Gospel says: “And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.”
That simple description has been an inspiration for artists since at least the fourth century. In 1223, St. Francis of Assisi is believed to have created the first créche. Derived from an Old French word for “manger” or “crib,” créche came to signify a representation of the Nativity scene.