(Another service to our community to help celebrate the Christmas season)
Conleys Talking Nativity Sign - Courtesy of FASTSIGNSHelp your children understand the true meaning of Christmas with a visit to our Talking Nativity. Our manger scene is large enough that you can walk inside with your children and hear the story of Jesus' birth. There are even small benches where you can sit with your children as you listen to the Christmas story as narrated by Bruce Conley and Dr. Michael Mangis of Heartland Counseling as well as several other members of the staff at the funeral home, the counseling center and Conley Outreach. The Talking Nativity continues through Christmas Day. Read on to learn more about the history of this unique manger scene that dates to the 1950's.
THE TRADITION OF THE MANGER SCENE AT CONLEY FUNERAL HOME
(As reported in the Elburn Herald 2007)
The tradition of the manger scene at Conley Funeral Home, dates to the early fifties when my father, C.L. "Chuck" Conley built the first one on the west lawn of the funeral home. Then as now, it was made big enough that little children could actually venture inside the manger scene. Then, as now, it was also just small enough that, to advance to the manger itself as an adult, you must be on your knees. Knowing my dad, that reality was not just a construction detail, it was a conscious reflection of scripture that, regardless of our size or age, we must come to Christ as little children.
My dad may not have always quoted "scripture and verse" but he would often paraphrase the "spirit" of the scriptures in both word and deed. I have always suspected, in fact, that Dad's motivation for building of the manger scene lay much deeper in his heart. Though he never talked to me about it, I believe that the building of the manger scene was not only a labor of love, it was one of the ways he worked out his grief over the death of my brother, Wayne. Wayne was born in 1948 with Spina Bifida and lived only a few months. In many ways, his life and death impacted my parents life and ministry in funeral service. Looking back, it's not hard to imagine that dad, like grieving fathers of every generation, needed something physically engaging to work out his grief. At the very most difficult time of year, perhaps he found that outlet in building something that was, at the same time, the source of his comfort and a symbol of his hope.
As we have continued the building of the manger since dad's death, it has moved from the funeral home to Main Street, in front of Heartland Counseling which is today, housed in my grandparent's home where my father lived when he was a boy. Through the years, a long line of family members, friends and community groups have actually helped keep the custom alive. Among them, Jim Feece, was our silent partner, providing the straw for a number of years. This year the Joseph Kovalick family of Sugar Grove followed in those footsteps. When my father's ancient nativity figures needed refurbishing, it was Jim Shoaf of St. Charles Memorial Works who painstakingly recreated and hand painted them. For years my nephew, Bill Howard, along with friends from the Elburn Fire Department helped build the structure. My cousin Page McCloud and his sons made it their personal mission to erect the wood-frame infrastructure for a number of years as well. Through it all, my sister, Karen, carried the heart of the mission laboring over every aspect each year.
When the scene moved to Main Street in the early-nineties, we added a brief ceremony that came to be called the "Blessing of the Manger". It began with the thought creating an experience that could help grieving families find comfort and hope for coping with Christmas, as I believe my dad did. Toward that end, my sister wrote a beautiful read-aloud litany to be shared by everyone in attendance. Local clergy helped lead the ceremony and the Kaneland Madrigal singers sang classic carols and lead us all in singing "Silent Night" at the end. Though it has sometimes been cold, sometimes snowy and wet, people told us again and again, how much this brief experience meant to them.
In 2006, with both construction and narrative help from the counseling staff at Heartland, we were able to achieve my long time dream of creating a "Talking Nativity" through which young visitors can actually hear the biblical story of Christmas. In addition, our narrators share a variety of other readings designed to both capture the attention of children and carry to them, the true Spirit of Christmas. As a Christian Counseling Center, the staff at Heartland helps people heal more than just grief and find comfort as well as courage to live life fully. With that thought in mind, it seemed fitting as well, to create a "nativity experience" that could be embraced by everyone and anyone with an open wound and an open heart.
In that spirit, we joined hands with the community at large as we moved our nativity ceremony to be the same night as the Chamber of Commerce Christmas Stoll in Elburn each year. It is a wonderful night of community when Santa Claus comes to town and everywhere, children and grown-ups are sharing the feeling of Christmas. We believe that the feeling of Christmas flows directly from the real meaning of Christmas and we welcome anyone and everyone to join us in celebrating that fact as part of the annual "Christmas Stroll". The heart of Christmas is Love and that Love came to life among us on a night when another village was filled with people who did not know Jesus or Mary nor Joseph but all the people of that village and all the people of the world since, have been changed because of what happened in a tiny stable in Bethlehem.
So it is that we issue our recurring invitation to "children" of all ages, to join us at our little "stable" at Pierce and Main Street in Elburn, the night of the Christmas Stroll, Friday, December 5th at 7 pm. If you can't make it that night, the "Talking Nativity" will continue to welcome children and adults any day or night through Christmas.
The Madrigals will sing, the candles will glow and Heartland will host a warm and "yummy" place to come in from the snow.
So come sing a carol, light a candle and say a prayer, That Christmas be born anew, in hearts everywhere.
If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to call us at 630-365-6414 or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.