By Fr John Nguyen OFM Cap
Eight hundred years ago, in a little Italian town called Greccio, St Francis of Assisi staged the first Nativity Scene resembling Bethlehem.
It was simple and a live one too! In a cave, decked with hay and some farm animals, people gathered with their candles and torches to celebrate Christmas.
For the Christ Child, he resorted to a carved image—a wooden doll. That night, people witnessed St Francis going up to the lifeless child and gently waking it from a deep sleep. That baby statue came to life! It was all intentional.
St Francis wanted to do something that will recall to memory the little child who was born in Bethlehem. It certainly worked then, and is still working to this day—if are open to it!
Any Nativity scene recreates the Incarnation, Christ dwelling among us. God humbly became a man, a helpless and vulnerable child.
Beyond this most important scene of the Babe of Christmas, Mother Mary and Joseph, shepherds and wise men, there could be found other figures.
People depicted occupied with everyday things without a clue or indifferent to the fact that their saviour is dwelling among them.
Not much has changed with regards to these people going about their business, despite Christ right there before them.
There are people who take no notice of Christ in Christmas or reject him like the people who had no room in the inn.
Will you be one of those people who put Christ back into Christmas?
Will you pause before a Nativity Scene—perhaps one you have at home, at church, or even in the shopping centre?
There are a lot of distractions to take your focus away from the Babe of Bethlehem. Try to get rid of all the secular noise in your lives to pray and ask Baby Jesus to occupy your hearts.
Brothers and sisters, this Christmas examine your conscience, and go to confession. Every Catholic priest is a walking confessional box.
Then welcome Christ with pure hearts. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Mt 5:8).
This year, choose to see the living Babe of Christmas, like St Francis of Assisi.
Fr John Nguyen OFM Cap gave the above catechesis at the official blessing of the nativity of Patrician Brothers’ College, Fairfield, on 6 December.