The Nativity Scene

By Fr. John McNerney

I remember it well! At home our little manger of the nativity was always set up in our front sitting-room. In the candle-lit darkness I would gaze into it for hours-on-end and the whole Christmas story came really alive for me.

Seeing Mary and Joseph, the babe, the shepherds, the cows, donkey and sheep made it feel I was there with them too. The lights of the Christmas tree were to me as if they were the night-time radiances of the little village of Bethlehem. Pope Francis this Christmastide gave a beautiful reflection on the meaning of the nativity scene. I would like to share with you some of his thoughts.

Pope Francis brings us back to its origins in the little Italian town of Greccio, near Rieti where St Francis stopped on his way back from Rome in 1223. It was there that Francis said to the local people ‘let’s make this a Christmas to remember.’ There were no statues so the nativity scene was brought to life and enacted by all those present in Greccio that night. Pope Francis goes on to reflect on the more traditional mangers we have today. He says there is often a ‘background of a starry sky wrapped in the darkness and silence of the night.’ This reminds us of all the times we have experienced the darkness of night.

‘Yet, even then, God does not abandon us, but is there to answer our crucial questions about the meaning of life. Who am I? Where do I come from?…Why do I suffer?’ The landscapes in mangers often include the ruins of ancient houses or buildings. These ‘ruins are the visible sign of a fallen humanity, of everything that inevitably falls into ruin, decays and disappoints.’

Then ‘Jesus is the newness in the midst of an aging world, that he has come to heal and rebuild. To restore the world and our… Read more>>

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