LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - For many, the true meaning of Christmas is found not at a store or party but in the image of a manger scene.
The Christmas nativity scene with a stable and shepherds, Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus is traditional.
But in the home of Bishop Glen John Provost is a French manger scene of a slightly different tradition.
"You have all kinds of different little figures," said Bishop Provost. "For example, you have the farmer and his wife who are getting the livestock together, the little chickens and the goose and the goat. You have the priests who are also coming, you have ladies, you have someone weaving in the background, you have a basket weaver here, a flower salesperson over here. You have a drummer in the back. There's even an animal tamer with a bear."
Bishop Provost explains it's a depiction dating back to the 18th century after the French Revolution when a religious display would not have been permitted.
"Live nativity scenes, which were the practice in France at the time, were suppressed by revolutionaries," said Bishop Provost. "They were terribly anti-clerical and anti-religious. So the townspeople, wanting to have a nativity scene, created these nativity scenes and disguised them, as it were. The anti-religion authorities wouldn't dispute it or have any problems with it because it was a recreation of a town scene."
The creche was given to the bishop by a French teacher decades ago. He finds the facial expressions on the tiny characters especially intriguing.
"Each one is different, not only what they're doing, their occupation, but also their faces," he said. "Each one is almost like a portrait."
As the townspeople watch, eager to see the child, the true meaning of Christmas is revealed.
"They are focusing on what really is important, and that is Christ, the birth of Christ," said Provost.
And in quiet moments of reflection, the event takes on greater and more personal significance.
"Christmas is love. It's about God's love for us. We should foster some silence in our lives. I think it will help transform us, calm us down and to help us focus on what's really important."
For more on the origin of the Christmas creche, click here.