Sunday Reflection: Cultural Image of the the Baby in the Manger

This topic will have a very different cultural identity as I am writing in Australia, rather than America. So for those in the USA my apologies for anything I say that might add fuel to the very real cultural tensions that exist, or for the use of terms that may have different connotations than your own. I read an article a few years ago that explained that of all the English speaking countries we only understand each other on average 80% of the time. And as a frequent visitor to the USA, I have discovered that my vocabulary, if not my accent changes as soon as I touch down now. But culturally I still make mistakes as I don’t have the education, or history behind me to place me fully in the cultural context.

So, to be clear, I am writing this from an Australian context.

If we place a baby in the Christmas crib. What cultural type do we place there?

I have been bought up with a baby that reflects my own culture, and was comfortable with this until during my Children’s Spirituality qualifications, the cultural integrity of Bible story books was pointed out to me (thank you Dr Beth Barnett for opening my eyes to this)

So, when choosing storybook bible’s, I now automatically look for ones that represent a more culturally middle east specific representation if that is where the story takes place. Just as I look for Storybooks that tell of a more culturally diversified Australia.

But do we show the same care when choosing our Manger representation.

It is difficult to find culturally diverse dolls in Australia.

A few can be found in high end toy stores ( or or preschool or Kindergarten suppliers,(   , ) occasionally you come across culturally diverse dolls in the department stores or Kmart (—assorted/2688392 or—taylor/1040301  ) Big W or Target (though this is where I found mine a few years ago, unfortunately I haven’t seen them since) Thus, by default on limited budgets most congregations make do with the Anglo-Saxon representative in the manger.

But maybe the more expensive choices should be considered, and duly budgeted for. If the Children’s budget is too tight place it under the Outreach budget.

Because the theological discussion that needs to take place is if the representation should be culturally accurate for the times of the Bible stories or whether it should show God in our own image. But in today’s Australia what is that image and how many differences do we see in our congregations. Should the Chinese churches be using a Chinese baby? Where congregations are mixed in whose image do we place the Child in the Manger? The major cultural representation or show hospitality by representing the smallest cultural representative (if you can find the appropriate baby doll), and what of the other cultures in the congregation?

We are not alone, the discussion of representing God in human form has split the church, literally, since its early days. But for us maybe this is our time to ask the question in this way.

In the early 1990’s my eldest daughter would watch the TV show Lift Off, in this show was a doll, made of scraps and without a detailed face. This Doll was known as EC a tussle between two children left it with a male and female name shortened to EC, or as it was meant to represent Every Child. Are we at the point of cultural correctness that we need our own EC doll in the manger? And how would that look? And would, as I have seen for decades, a small child reach in and hug the baby to their heart?


Wendy L.



Ideas for Christmas Day services that might help the children relate to what is happening.

More often than not Australians end up at church’s that are different from their home church on Christmas Day. Often this is because they have traveled to be close to family or  because they have decided to attend the church of a relative.

All to infrequently this is because they have wondered in to just attend a service, but might be the case if they are already on holiday.

These are some generic ideas that might help you keep your children engages with what is happening no matter where you end up. If you are are a church that uses the RCL please see the previous last 3 posts for specific ideas.

If you are a small congregation please feel free to print these pages and hand them to parents/guardians as they arrive.

No matter where you are or where you go, the important part is that you enjoy this holy day together.

Remember that you have bought your child to worship. Enjoy engaging them in it.

Sit towards the front so they can see what is going on

Explain what is going on. 

Read during the Bible readings,

Pray during the prayers, Precise, what is said, so that your child can understand.

Colour, Draw or Craft during the sermon.

Craft or drawing or play are for spiritual responses not for a perfectionist piece that can be shown off.

Remember that little ones will need their own space to move and wiggle.

 Also leave when you need to but make sure you return quickly.

 You and your child/ren have as much right to worship as any other member of the congregation.

 All these ideas have been chosen to make use of what you might have with you, rather than trying to locate items that you might not have.

Read/Watch the Christmas story with your child


The most relevant are Bethlehem Town  and Jed and Roy McCoy

and if the church you are at is following a Refuge theme this year try Jesus was a Refugee

You can read on line or purchase the books if you have time. All of these have an activity pack for download at $A4.95.

Which you can print off, at an Officeworks if you are already away from home, many Hotels will let you print too. Or ask someone at the church to print it for you.

There are more than enough activities for young and old to enjoy and maybe even share.

OR down load the Bible for Kids app on your phone

Take any children’s story book Bible with you, read to or let them look at the pictures.

MAKE A NATIVITY SET: Down load this free nativity set

print on thick cardboard for them to colour and make during the sermon.

BRING: a nativity set for the children to play with or take dolls, and animals to make up a child friendly playset of your own.

Bring a baby doll to play with.

PRAY: Use the nativity to suggest a prayer for each person represented ie for the baby to have a safe home to grow up in, ie for dad to love Mum, for people to care enough to find you etc. (if you do not have a play nativity you can make one here

BRING  texta’s non-toxic, child safe and washable and drawing paper or a journal.

Above all enjoy this special time together.


Wendy L.