Christmas is less than a week from today. It is the joyful culmination of four-weeks of spiritual preparation for the Incarnation of Christ. On Christmas Day, we celebrate that which we proclaim when we pray the Angelus: “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.”
How quickly the presents will get opened in the morning; and the elaborate feasts we take days to prepare will be eaten promptly. Those outward signs of our delight should not obscure for us what should be the true meaning of this holy, holy day. Christmas is a day not about over-spending, over-eating and over-celebrating (although we all tend to do that). It is not a day about secular consumerism. It is a day of thanksgiving and giving glory to God for the Incarnation of Christ and His saving works.
It should be a day to recommit ourselves to the little baby in the manger. We know that His wooden cradle will be replaced later with the wood of the cross. But on Christmas Day, we can delight in the fulfillment of a promise made ages and ages ago.
I always take time on Christmas Day to study the Nativity scene that is set up in my home. I look at the “cast of characters” in this scene: The Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, the angel, the three kings, the animals and the shepherds, all gathered around Baby Jesus. The setup reminds me of the refrain from Joy to the World: “Let Heaven and Nature Sing.”
Here, the lowly and the important are side by side in their adoration of the baby king. Before God, great kings, the wealthy, the famous, the powerful have no greater claim or right to His love. There is no station, no position, no rank that is greater than any other when we kneel in adoration before Jesus. We are equally beloved of the Father, and we are equally invited and welcomed to come to the manger, to marvel at the new Baby, to thank God for the Gift of His Son.
When he created the very first nativity scene in the town of Greccio, Italy, St. Francis of Assisi said he wanted to recreate the manger because, “I wish to recall to memory the little child who was born in Bethlehem. I want to set before our bodily eyes the hardships of His infant needs, how He lay in the manger, how with an ox and ass standing by, He lay upon the hay.”
Just this week, Pope Francis called on families to set up a Nativity scenes in their home because it “celebrates the closeness of God.”
The Holy Father likened Nativity scenes to “a living Gospel” reminding us “that God did not remain invisible in heaven, but came to earth... God always has been close to His people, but when He was incarnated and born, He became very close, super close, the closest.”
This Christmas, let’s take time from our celebrations to spend time before our Nativity Scenes. Why? The answer is found in Isaiah 9:6, “For a Child is born to us, and a son is given to us, and the government is upon His shoulders; and His name shall be called, Wonderful, Counselor, God the Mighty, the Father of the world to come, the Prince of Peace.”