our family nativity with St. Francis Assisi
Christmas Eve has arrived! That magical time of the year when all seems to be at peace. That time of the year when nature seems still, wars paused, enemies celebrated together, kids believe in magic and the hope of treasure. A time when most of us recall how we spent the season as a child, longing once again for that simplicity of life. Admist all the secular commercialization, this time of the year still seems to hold a special place for people.
The picture above is of the manger scene our family sets up every year for almost two decades now. Since about the 1980's I have added the statue of St. Francis of Assisi to the scene. Why? In a little town in Italy, Greccio, in the year 1223, St. Francis decided to have an evening prayer service/mass for the towns people, and to make the event meaningful he decided to recreate the nativity, the birth of Jesus. Prior to this event, the displaying of nativity scenes was unheard of. But for Francis, the importance of the nativity event was the reality that it was a real event. Historically, in the town of Bethlehem, a child, later to be named Jesus by his parents, was actually born. Francis, in his faith, believed that this child was the son of God born into our world. He wanted the people of Greccio to fully understand that our God is approachable and knows us. That He was born as one of us. What better way to show this than by showing the people. The rest, as they say, is history.
What does this day mean to you? How can we make "real" in our lives that which happened over 2,000 years ago? Just last night our family was watching the classic show "How the Grinch Stole Christmas". The original version brings back so many fond memories of watching it as a kid, and now as an adult I continue to enjoy it, but more so for the meaning of the story The Grinch couldn't take away Christmas by taking away the people's "stuff". Christmas, for the Who's in Whoville meant a lot more than what they had or didn't have. For them, Christmas was an interior real existence A deeper sense of what the season is all about.
What is Christmas all about? Is it the birth of a child, the son of God, into the world? And if so, what does that mean for me today? Also last night we watched the Christmas special for the reality show "Duck Dynasty". One of the main characters was asked what Christmas meant to him. The question was asked in the context of his not wanting to set up the decorations for he thought the decorations were too commercial. For him, Christmas is about "faith, family and facial hair". In a real way, I feel his statement aptly sums up the holiday. It is all about our belief in our higher power, for me Jesus, the son of God, humbly born among us. That love God has for us needs to be translated into the love we have for others, particularly our family. How do we humbly love and care for our family. How do we mirror Jesus for each other? But in order for us to fully love another we need to love and respect ourselves, the good and the not so good (the facial hair statement). As God becomes one of us He shows us the importance of us as humans. If God respects us than we need to respect ourselves We were worthy enough for our Lord to become one us, it is important for us to feel that worthiness within ourselves. When we love ourselves we are more fully able to love those around us, and that overall outpouring of love combined with the love of others can make "real" the presence of God in our lives.
So, what is this season all about? Loving ourselves and others so that the love of God may be present in our world. This is what St. Francis tried to show the people of Greccio. Hopefully that message continues today in the nativity scenes we set up. This Christmas season find ways to make Jesus real in the lives of others. If we all did this, gave the present of love to another, just think of how different our world be. As I stated in a recent post, maybe that change in ourselves, society and world is the new era the Mayan calendar talked about. Each day is a new opportunity for us. Let's take the magic of this season, and every day make it a magical day of love.
I wish you and your loved ones a very merry, blessed and peace-filled Christmas!!