Away in a Manger

These nativity sets on display at the library are part of Renae Hempen’s collection. (Bethany Carson photo.)

“Away in a manger, no crib for a bed…” is one of the most beloved carols of the season. On display at the Clarksville library for the past month, many locals will have noticed part of Renae Hempen’s collection of nativity scenes.

     Hempen’s collection of 30 nativities showcases a wide selection, including sets from Bethlehem, Mexico, Tanzania, Nicaragua and Germany. Some are as small as an ornament. Others decorate her lawn. Each one has a special story.

     The set from Bethlehem once belonged to Clarksville’s P.C. Matthias, a former minister at St. John Lutheran, and his wife Ruth. Hempen was a friend of the couple, and went to their estate sale looking for something to remember them by. She found the olive-wood nativity set from Bethlehem—and waited until the final fire sale at the end of the auction to purchase it. No one else seemed to want it, and it was hers for only nine dollars.

     Her love for crèches started when she was first married, 34 years ago. Her husband and mother-in-law both gave her crèches for Christmas. Her fascination with them grew, and every time anyone struggled with finding her the perfect Christmas present, she’d come home with another nativity set.  


Read more in the December 28 edition of the STAR.