Sitting at the booth next to me at the annual Christmas Bazaar, we engaged in warm and friendly chatter. He and she had grandchildren that were in my kids’ grades and the kids were all friends. I would see them when I worked in the parish office at the front desk, as they were active parishioners. I would see them when I dropped off their oldest granddaughter, who we carpooled with from high school. Their youngest grandson and my son were always playing together, often at his daughter’s house. It was like they were our family.
Every year, this man “Mr. Tom” would spend hours creating beautiful nativity scenes. He would purchase ones that were already constructed but then take them to the next level by adding moss, pots of clay, and sand to bring to life that Holy Night.
Peering into his little creations transported me to the very night of Christ’s birth. It gave me that sought-after Christmas peace that is sung and spoken of, but eludes most of us as adults. I purchased two of his mystical nativity scenes, because I couldn’t part with either of them. I spent twice as much money as I had made that day at the Bazaar on my painted wooden crosses. It didn’t matter to me because I knew that every year I would pull them out, and mystically be transported from the chaos of this worldly season to that Holy Place where it was enough to just peer at the sweet newborn face of God.
In our culture, we forget God who entered into the world to save us and was crucified. We take His birthday and we turn it into a reason to spend millions of dollars on stuff that most people don’t need and only passes away with time. We do this before His birthday and then, before the actually beginning of the Holy Season of Christmas, we throw out the wrap, the tree, and all remembrance of Him. We return things that were given to us. We feel tired, frustrated and burnt out. Now, we take his name out of the reason we started all of this to begin with and call it “Xmas”. He died for us and we rename Him with an X. Now we just say “The Holidays” (by the way, that really derived from Holy Days.)
I won’t call Him X. I won’t forget what He did. And I won’t forget Mr. Tom who passed away three years later, and how he made Christmas night ever more sacred for me with two of his beautiful nativity scenes.
I asked my family this year that for Jesus’ birthday, we would go to confession and give him our purest hearts. The greatest “penance” I received in an Advent confession was a few years back. Our priest asked me to spend five minutes before a nativity scene contemplating what my savior did for me. Find peace. Feel loved. Quiet my soul. And remember.
Pope Francis Issues Apostolic Letter on the Meaning, Importance of Nativity Scenes
Excerpts from article by Courtney Mares from National Catholic Register
GRECCIO, Italy — Pope Francis issued an apostolic letter Dec. 1 on the meaning and importance of Nativity scenes, calling for this “wonderful sign” to be more widely displayed in family homes and public places throughout the world.
“The enchanting image of the Christmas crèche, so dear to the Christian people, never ceases to arouse amazement and wonder. The depiction of Jesus’ birth is itself a simple and joyful proclamation of the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God,” Pope Francis wrote in Admirabile Signum, meaning “A Wonderful Sign” in Latin.
“In a particular way, from the time of its Franciscan origins, the Nativity scene has invited us to ‘feel’ and ‘touch’ the poverty that God’s Son took upon himself in the Incarnation. Implicitly, it summons us to follow him along the path of humility, poverty and self-denial that leads from the manger of Bethlehem to the cross,” Pope Francis wrote. (article onhttp://www.ncregister.com/)