OSAGE | Walk into Riceville’s First Congregational United Church of Christ, and you will discover a wide range of nativity scenes adorning the church.

The nativities belong to Riceville resident Esther Asfahl, who has approximately 70 in her collection. A small portion of them can be found each year on display inside the church.

“I got my first nativity scene in the early 80s.” Asfahl said. “I bought it in the Frame Maker Shop that was once run by Elaine Govern. The set is made of pewter.”

Since her first purchase, Asfahl has added 69 more nativity scenes made of various materials, sizes, shapes, and colors. Her sets included a miniature crystal set that is only three inches high, a nativity scene stenciled on a tea cup, a couple of Precious Memories sets and a large dark wooden set that was made by the late-Bob Kesten, or Riceville.

“I have one my cousin bought for me, which was made in the Holy Land and is made of Olive Wood,” Asfahl said. “We were in Mexico once and I just picked up a couple of sets in a shop, but they weren’t made in Mexico.

“Another set I got from a friend, was made in West Germany,” Asfahl said. One of her unique sets shows a miniature Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus, engulfed in larger white angel’s wings. Some nativities are lighted and others have music boxes. One of the sets includes a music box with a water globe, which moves.

“I started setting the nativity scenes up in the church in 2003, but I didn’t have that many then.” Asfahl said. Now, it takes her almost an entire day to set up the various scenes through the church.

“Every year when I set them up I think of Mary and Joseph coming to Bethlehem, and of the meager surroundings for the birth of the Christ Child,” Asfahl said. “So many nativities have the baby in the manger, but some of them have Mary holding the child which I like, because it shows the mother’s love.”

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