The Nativity Scene opens our hearts to the mystery of life
- Mon Dec 23, 2013 14:21 EST
December 20, 2013 (HLI) – Tradition teaches that Saint Francis of Assisi set up the first Nativity scene in order to inspire and encourage a greater appreciation of the wonders of the first Christmas. The year was 1223, and Francis created the scene in a cave outside Greccio, Italy featuring a wax figure of the infant Jesus and a man and a woman playing the roles of Mary and Joseph, with a live donkey and ox also present. Local shepherds watched over their sheep in nearby fields, just as shepherds in Bethlehem had watched over theirs on that first Christmas Eve.
Every Christmas crib provides a simple invitation to open our hearts and minds to the mystery of Life. It is an encounter with the Eternal God, who as the second Person of the Holy Trinity entered history and mortality in the mystical scene of the first Nativity for all to see (though he had truly become human some nine months earlier!). Although few encountered Him that first Christmas in the simple and lowly dwelling of Bethlehem, it would not be long before the world knew that he came for all: rich and poor, sinner and saint, believer and non-believer.
Christmas anchors us in the profound message of the closeness of the One who created the world; the One who becomes human and dwells among us — Emmanuel. The God who made the whole universe and created man out of the dust of the earth, embraces our humanity — without sin — and takes up His first dwelling among us as every man — in the womb of Mary.
Sadly, just as with that first Christmas Eve when only a few persons recognized the wondrous gift that entered human existence, so it is with human life today. So many forget the miraculous wonder of every conception. They forget that the eternal Logos — the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us — was once an embryo, a fetus and a developing child. The Incarnation sanctifies every pregnancy, every womb and every developing child within the womb. Moreover, Jesus’ first act of redemption began from the womb of Mary, His mother.
Saint Francis wanted all on Christmas Eve to see and understand the reason for their celebration — Jesus, the Babe of Bethlehem, the Light whose appearance breaks through the gloom, dispels the darkness and enables us to understand the meaning and the value of our own lives and of all history. In the midst of an every growing secularization and de-Christianization of our culture, the wonder of Christmas anchors humanity in its origin and re-birth given to us that miraculous winter’s Eve. The Incarnation reveals in an incomparable and amazing way that every human life is dignified in and through the One who became man.