“Heaven Came Down” Display Invites True Spirit of Christmas

by Paula McKibben   You and your family have helped to set up for the Blaze of Lights in Bluffton. You were there for the lighting and have gone back a couple of times to see the lights in the evening. You have visited the Gift of Christmas light show on College Avenue, have walked the streets of Bluffton looking at the decorated shop windows and have even driven down South Main Street in Findlay to see the lights. One evening, you and your family made the trip to Toledo to see the Lights before Christmas.
   All of these are spectacular and add to the wonderment of the holiday, but you will be missing the spirit of Christmas if you don’t visit the nativity and angel display called “Heaven Came Down” at the Bethel Family Life Center located behind the Mt. Cory Methodist Church on Washington Street at the northern edge of Mt. Cory.
   This display, sponsored by the Friendship Circle of the Mt. Cory church, assisted by members of the Pleasant View Church, 375 CR 37, Bluffton, beckons visitors with 112 nativities and 220 angels in a variety of media: cross stitch, olive wood, crystal, cloth, wood, ceramics, porcelain, plastic, glass, metal, cardboard, rock, resin – and even an angel made from a hymnbook.
   Shar Marshall beams when she says, “People tell me that when they come and walk around they get a feeling of Christmas.” She says that it takes two to three days to set up and that they add items and move things around each year so that the display is not the same every year.
   Nativities and angels range in size from the tiniest set donated by Dottie Long that is not even an inch high or wide to a nearly 36-inch nativity fireplace screen donated by Jan Simons.
   For variety, visitors will find a Thomas Kincade nativity tree, loaned to the exhibit by Rick and Cindy Lichtle, and a Kincade nativity set donated by Lana Burry. Regina Huston has created a nativity tree. Jean Huston Clevidence and her father Lloyd Huston created a wooden nativity set when she was a child that stands in the entryway. Then there’s the nativity puzzle that was made by Garry Thomas and the  Precious Moments nativity. The original lighted outdoor nativity used by the church shines at the front of the hall. There’s even a cardboard nativity, in perfect condition, that Marshall believes was probably from the 1940s.
   A set of nativity tree ornaments has texture as a result of sand from the Holy Land being sprinkled on them, probably when the paint was wet.Angels stand among the nativities. One hundred of the angels were donated by Mildred James, one of which she painted herself.    There’s the large 30-inch moving angel that was too big for Kathy Loy to keep in her house any longer. One particular angel sculpture, with the charm of a Fenton glass sculputure, is the baby Jesus completely surrounded by angels and huge angel wings.
   To create the atmosphere of a home, Mark and Deb Brenneman loaned them a fireplace as a home for the fireplace screen and as the basis of a cozy corner, complete with rocking chair and Bible. They even added Christmas trees to the scene.
   Just before the visitor reaches the fireplace, he will see the children’s area with stuffed animals, Christmas books, a nativity made by a Sunday school class from yarn and cloth, and a nativity made from Legos. Everything is touchable.
   Where did this idea come from? Marshall visited a church in Bowling Green five or six years ago that had a nativity display on boards placed over the pews for one weekend. She thought, “Boy, that would be a nice thing to try.” And since her church had a Family Life Center, they could keep the display open for a longer period of time.
   This is the fourth year for Heaven Came Down. It is open to the public on Saturday, Dec. 10, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 11, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. However, other times can be arranged for groups by calling 419-963-4992  for Shar Marshall or 419-788-1145 for Jean Clevidence. The last time that the display will be available for viewing will be after the Christmas Eve service.