Nativity scenes are the lawn ornament du jour for those who like to beat the rest of us down with the Jesus stick this time of the year; the fact that they sell inflatable versions at the hardware store now really says all you need to know about the commercialization of Christmas (and religion as a whole). They're basically the same as a giant snowman or a candy cane on the lawn, only they show the neighbors you're not as fun as the people with the jumphouse Santa down the block. There was a time, however, before elaborate laser-light Christmas pageants and big-box churches on the highway, when the manger scene still had the power to truly inspire: in 18th-century Naples, for instance, where statues called presepe figures stood in for the principals of the story in elaborate, highly artistic renderings of the world's most controversial barn birth. Astrologers now say Jesus was probably born in June, but if you're a strict traditionalist with taste, you might want to check out A Nativity From Naples: Presepe Sculpture of the Eighteenth Century, a new exhibit at the Kimbell (3333 Camp Bowie Blvd. in Fort Worth) that features more than 70 of these old-school Christmas action figures. Call 817-332-8451 or visit kimbellmuseum.org.
Tuesdays-Fridays, Sundays. Starts: Dec. 14. Continues through Jan. 25, 2008