For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.
Several years ago a priest friend of mine wrote the following mediation while setting up his manger scene and I would like to share it with you:
I think you should consider the words: "For unto you ….. " in Luke 2:11. As I was putting up my nativity set these three words sprung out at me "For unto you … " Yes Lord how I need your holy nativity. The visitation of Elizabeth and Mother Mary confirms life is precious in God's eyes. You and I take our assigned places in God's providence; mine to stand and offer the sacrifice of Christ's blood and body for the remission of our sins.
Yet look how low the Son of God stooped to make our salvation possible. A cave and a manger for the Lord of Glory to visit this sin cursed world! A cave that only allows me to bow before his presence to enter in. I held the twig twisted manger that was to be the Lord's bed. Even poor me, divested of all this world holds dear, is welcome to kneel and adore Jesus!
The two little lambs pointed their faces at the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. Our Jesus offers us the sacrifice of the Mass so we will never forget the high cost of our redemption.
The donkey in the corner of the manger gladly bore the weight of the blessed Mother to carry her to Bethlehem meaning the "house of bread". Yes, Jesus is our living bread that came down from heaven to heal our sinful souls and prepare us to enter heaven.
There is Joseph who suffered much to see God's holy will fulfilled in the birth of God's Son. Our life, like Joseph's, is mixed with buffeting and blessings. God gave Joseph great graces to carry lives challenges and that grace and mercy is renewed to us each day.
There is the blessed Mother dressed in blue; God graced her to be the door that will open God's heaven to those that love her Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. I prayed the joyful mysteries before the manger and I felt my sorrows flyaway like little birds.
There is the little boy kneeling in awe before the baby Jesus and the wonder of the angel's song still fills the air. The angel announces "Glory to God in the Highest" and indeed the glory of the only begotten Son of the Father shines brightly in the dark of night.
There is the cow providing much needed heat for the new born Christ Child. To the left are three camels and the three wise kings with their gifts, kneeling in worship before the Savior. To the right are the shepherds, the common working men who labor to provide for their family's needs. They saw the heavens lit up with the angels from the throne room of God's heaven and heard the Gospel proclaimed. God's love was wrapped in the babe of Bethlehem for people of every kindred, tongue and nation of the world!
What place would we take in this manger scene? For me I am like the donkey bearing the many burdens of those in great need at Christmas. Yes the world may consider me an ass but that is only because they refuse to follow me to Bethlehem and see what has come to pass.
Yes, you must allow the light of the star to lead you to the Savior's crib and adore and worship the King of Kings and Lord of lords.
Glory to God in the Highest! Fr. JFB
Of all the Christmas decorations we so lovingly place around our homes, the one that is indispensable as it is central to the meaning of Christmas, is the Crèche or Nativity Scene. The Christ Child in the manger and other pictures of the story of Bethlehem have been used in church services from the first centuries. But the crib in its present form and its use outside the church originated with St. Francis of Assisi. Through his famous celebration at Greccio, Italy, on Christmas Eve, 1223, with a Bethlehem scene including live animals, he made the crib popular. Since then it has been a familiar sight in Christian homes all over the world.
The Christmas Creche was the inspiration of St. Francis of Assisi. For the Saint, Christmas had always been the Feast of Feasts, yet he did not think it had been celebrated as it could have been, The poverty of Christ had become lost in the extravagance of the Christmas festivities An idea occurred to him and while on a visit to Rome, he received permission from the Pontiff to put his idea to work.
The story of how St. Francis of Assisi "invented" the crib is so delightful and inspiring that it might be told or read to the children every year. We give here the account in the very words of Brother Thomas de Celano, who was there when it happened and who wrote it down:
Blessed Francis called a friend about two weeks before Christmas and said to him: 'If you desire that we should celebrate this year's Christmas together at Greccio, go quickly and prepare what I tell you; for I want to enact the memory of the Infant Who was born at Bethlehem, and how He was deprived of all the comforts babies enjoy; how He was bedded in a manger on hay, between an ass and an ox. For once I want to see all this with my own eyes.' When the good and faithful man had heard this, he departed quickly and prepared in the above-mentioned place everything that the Saint had told him.
The joyful day approached. The Franciscans were called from many communities. The men and women of the neighborhood, as best they could, prepared candles and torches to brighten the night. Finally the Saint of God arrived, found everything prepared, saw it and rejoiced. The crib was made ready, hay was brought, the ox and ass were led to the spot and Greccio became a new Bethlehem. The night was radiant with joy. The crowds drew near and rejoiced in the novelty of the celebration. Their voices resounded from the woods, and the rocky cliff echoed the jubilant outburst. As they sang in the praise of God, the whole night rang with exultation. The Saint of God stood before the crib, overcome with devotion and wondrous joy. A solemn Mass was sung at the crib.
The Saint was dressed in deacon's vestments, for a deacon he was [out of humility, St. Francis never became a priest, remaining a deacon all his life]. He sang the Gospel. Then he preached a delightful sermon to the people who stood around him, speaking about the nativity of the poor King and the humble town of Bethlehem.
The parishioners and pilgrims who came to Greccio for Midnight Mass and witnessed the Christmas manger scene were much impressed with the simplicity of St. Francis' creche and it was from there that the tradition took hold and spread around the Catholic world.