The Nativity Scene
Part of our Christmas celebrations (and preparation for them) can come from having Nativity Scenes in our homes. Indeed, we will have one in Church. They are depictions of the moment of Our Lord’s birth in a way that we can see and touch. They come in many shapes and sizes. I have a few of them, but I think my favourite is one that my mother knitted. Don’t ask her to make you one, she has sworn that it is the only one that will ever come off her knitting needles!
St Francis of Assisi invented the crib scene in 1223 to help people to experience the birth of Christ in a more tangible way. He had been to the Holy Land and had seen the place of Our Saviour’s birth, and was so moved that he wanted the people back at home in Italy to experience something that had touched him so deeply. So in a cave near Greccio, St Francis staged the first nativity scene. This first one involved human beings and live animals (so the did the original one as well!), but soon the people and animal were replaced by statues and pictures. The point of it, however, was always the same - to help devotion to the Christ-child, and to focus our minds at Christmas. This is needed in every age, as we can always get caught up in the material celebration of the season and forget the heart of it.
I hope you have a nativity scene in your homes. If not then you might think about getting one this year. You can hunt one down for just a few pounds. The point is not that they are expensive extravaganzas, but that they help your spiritual life. And try to make sure that the baby Jesus is not there until Christmas day (or if He is, then cover Him up - He won’t mind, I promise). And your cribs can be wonderfully personal. Mine includes an elephant (long, long story) and a robin. If you have family around you (especially little ones) then make the crib something special that they are involved in, perhaps with short prayers, or they could add their own animals. And if you are alone, then remember that you are not really. Because there in your hearth or on your sideboard, you have angels poised to sing the glory of God, and Shepherds, and St Joseph, and Our Lady. You have animals, and the whole world of God’s love for you. Because this is the true message of Christmas. God became man that we might know His unending love.
This first appeared on the back of the bulletin of St Mary of Glastonbury and St Michael Shepton Mallet