While Catholics across Sydney eagerly await the birth of Jesus, the Nativity scene at the Redemptoris Mater Seminary proclaims that Christ has come for everybody.
This Christmas season, Vice-Rector Fr Marlon Henao Perez, along with half a dozen seminarians of the Neocatechumenal Way, spent nearly two weeks after-hours putting together a grand Nativity diorama in miniature.
Complete with animatronics, noise-activated sound effects and a flowing river, it’s a sight to behold.
“It’s not only a traditional reflection of old-time Bethlehem. There’s a certain liberty that one has here to introduce various elements,” explained rector Fr Eric Skruzny.
While a micro-sized Holy Family is the centrepiece, far from the crib is a Roman town where soldiers guard the gates, as well as a towering Jewish temple complete with marble wallpaper.
Other areas host shepherds in the fields, town merchants, village homes, grazing livestock and busy workers.
The diorama includes hundreds of figurines collected slowly over many years by the seminary during visits to Rome, where Fr Eric travels most years.
“If you go to Loretto, you’ll find they specialise in shops of these kinds of figures, as well as in the main city marketplace during Christmas,” Fr Eric said.
Fr Marlon’s creative flair was brought to life with the seminarians, who together spent time making polystyrene houses, plastic trees, and epoxy lakes.
The result is a five-metre-long interactive display with pigs spinning on the spit, men chopping trees and lights filling houses.
Fr Eric believes the extravagance of the set produces one clear idea: “Christ has come for everybody, whether they are conscious of it or not.”
“God loves everyone, but not everyone has an experience of his love. With the presence of the crib people see that the world is made up of all different kinds of people and traditions, but the only one that makes sense to history and to humanity is Christ.
“He often remains in the background, but whether people see and acknowledge him, or not, he is the centre of meaning and life on this Earth.”
In his apostolic letter in 2019 on the meaning and importance of the nativity scene, Pope Francis called the Christmas creche, “a living Gospel rising up from the pages of sacred Scripture.”
While the Redemptoris Mater seminary might have taken that message quite literally this year, it is an important reminder to do exactly that: live out the Gospel and bring the pages to life by preparing for and loving the child born in a manger.