our family nativity with St. Francis Assisi
Christmas 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 celebrate 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 us.
The picture above is of the manger scene our family sets up every year now for almost two decades. Since the 1980's I have added the statue of St. Francis of Assisi to my manger scene. Why? In a little town in Italy, Greccio, in the year 1223, St. Francis decided to have an evening prayer service 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 his understanding 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 actually reenacting the scene. The rest, as they say, is history.
What does this day mean to us? How can we make "real" in our lives that which happened over 2,000 years ago? Every year, since I was a child, I watch the classic show "How the Grinch Stole Christmas". The original version brings back so many fond memories, and now as an adult I continue to enjoy it 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 internal 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? For me Jesus, the son of God, was humbly born among us. This love God has for us needs to be translated into the love we have for others. But in order for us to fully love another we need to love and respect ourselves, the good and the not so good. 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. 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!!