Christian faithful flocked to sanctuary Christmas Day for the Holiest day in their religion, and a church in Galesburg has a little more to see this year when it comes to the Christmas story.
The birth of the Christ Child multiplied hundreds-fold and no two alike.
Darla Krejci said, “The birth of Christ is the Christmas story, and it’s such a lovely enduring story. A mother giving birth in the stable and there’s animals, and there’s baby and gifts how could you not love this story.”
The Christmas season is a busy one for Darla Krejci.
Krejci said, “Oh my organist is here.”
The office manager at First Lutheran Church in Galesburg is on the move in the lead up to Noel.
Krejci said, “The birth of Christ is the Christmas story.”
She has a fondness for the O Holy Night.
Krejci said, “There’s a lot here.”
In her possession is the re-imagining of that story more than 200 different ways.
Krejci said, “So, I have 219 here.”
Krejci said, “These two are fountains. I don’t have water running in them right now, but they do run. This is a lamp and a cookie jar. Things that you don’t think of as being nativity scenes.”
So many away in the mangers.
Krejci said, “The snowmen, the gnomes. But I also have the Veggie Tales, cats, bears, the Peanuts.”
It’s tough to keep them all straight.
Krejci said, “Ornaments. I think there’s 27 total nativities on the tree.”
Krejci herds this flock she shepherds.
“The whimsical section.” Krejci said, “The one that I call the whimsical section has all sorts of fun favorites. The very first one that someone gave me that made me laugh cause who would think you’d take the marshmallows and make a nativity scene.”
She added, “Craft nativities.”
In that selection is found, “One that never ceases to crack me up every year is the popsicle stick one.”
On the other side of the room, Krejci said, “I’ve got a section of vintages, but the ones I call the tinies is cause they’re so tiny.”
It all began about three decades ago.
Krejci said, “I call my original collection, but at that point, it wasn’t a collection.”
When in college, the first purchase just after Christmas.
Krejci said, “I thought it was very elegant and so I bought it for myself.”
It was incremental at first.
Krejci said, “I took a cruise to Mexico, and they had a little Mexican nativity I bought.”
Taking nearly 25 years…
Krejci said, “The Faberge egg, which is one of my favorites.”
To arraign 100.
Krejci said, “After that, I would say within three years I had 200. People just start giving them to you when they know you start to collect something.”
She added, “I brag that over the years I have only ended up with two duplicates. That’s how many that are out there.”
While it’s the same story in the meaning of the nativities, each display also has its own story.
“I could probably go through an tell you where all of them came from,” said Krejci.
It started to leave no room in her house.
“It started out on the mantle, but then it had to go to the mantle to above the door frames and then on the bookcases and then on the other table and then it went up the stairs and in the kitchen and into the bathrooms,” she said.
That gave her an idea, and for the first time she’s setting them out in public for all to see at her church.
“I have a set like that too,” said one visitor to the collection.
Krejci said, “It allows me to get out decorations I haven’t seen in years. Like my Dickens village and my Grinches and my snow globes.”
But this collection is sure to grow.
Krejci said, “Pretty much guarantee I’ll probably get five more at Christmas. In fact, I just bought one last night for myself.”
Her next milestone already in sight.
Krejci said, “So I guess we’ve got to go to the 250-mark and after that 500 sounds reasonable, doesn’t it. And so, no, I’ll never stop.”
She does not work alone in making that possible.
“Thrift store and garage sales. In fact, I make it a mission. I have a posse of people who look for them for me and buy them for me, specifically for my collection,” said Krejci.
This scene of a silent night that never gets old.
Krejci said, “I just enjoy sharing it, and you can’t find a nicer story to share.”
Krejci plans to keep up the collection through the end of the year.
The church is open most Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.and Sunday service at 9:30 a.m.
People can reach the church at (309) 343-3176.
There is no cost to view the collection but Krejci does collect donations to support outreach ministries.