I collect nativity sets and display them throughout my apartment. I keep one out year-around as a reminder of the miracle of God’s only Son’s birth. May your Christmas celebration be filled with His joy and peace.
ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES By Sally Bair
A Familiar Christmas Custom
One of our dearest Christmas traditions began back in the days of St. Francis of Assisi. This saint, born in 1182, began preaching the Gospel soon after his conversion. St. Francis took seriously Jesus’ words to His disciples, given in Matthew 10:7-10. “As you go, preach, saying, ‘the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. Provide neither gold nor silver nor copper in your money belts, nor bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor staffs ….”
St. Francis traveled light, possessing nothing, as he made Christ real to those to whom he preached.
On December 24, 1223, St. Francis found a cave in Italy and built a nativity scene, filling it with animals and hay. A crowd of curious people drew near, full of wonder at the scene, and listened intently as St. Francis preached the message of the miracle of God being born as an infant in a stable.
“Behold your God,” he said, “a poor and helpless child, the ox and donkey beside him. Your God is of your flesh.”
This tradition is still being played out in many churches today, in spite of the glitz and glitter surrounding us. Such an old custom can remind us that the purpose of Christmas is two-fold: to celebrate Christ’s birth and to make the message of His salvation known to all. Like St. Francis of Assisi, we’re all called to preach the Good News.
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor. He has sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness; the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:1-3)
Lord God, help us to see beyond the glitz and glitter, to see Jesus, who is love and humility personified—the Christ in Christmas. Amen.