Advent Reflections:  The Tradition of the Christmas Crib

The Tradition of the Christmas Crib

Following a beautiful and firmly-rooted tradition, many families set up their crib immediately after the feast of the Immaculate Conception, as if to relive with Mary those days full of trepidation that preceded the Birth of Jesus.  Putting up the crib at home can be a simple but effective way of presenting faith, to pass it on to one’s children.  The crib helps us contemplate the mystery of God’s love that was revealed in the poverty and simplicity of the Bethlehem Grotto.  Saint Francis of Assisi was so taken by the mystery of the Incarnation that he wanted to present it anew at Greccio in the living nativity scene, thus beginning an old, popular tradition that still retains its value for evangelization today.  Indeed, the crib can help us understand the secret of the true Christmas because it speaks of the humility and merciful goodness of Christ, who though he was rich he made himself poor for us (2 Cor 8:9).  His poverty enriches those who embrace it, and Christmas brings joy and peace to those who, like the shepherds in Bethlehem, accept the angel’s words: Let this be a sign to you: in a manger you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes (Lk 2:12).  This is still the sign for us too, men and women of the third millennium.  There is no other Christmas.

Pope Benedict XVI


The Adoration of the Shepherds by Gerard van Honthorst, 1622

The first Sunday and week of Advent

In her wisdom, the Catholic Church sets aside the season of Advent as a time for the Christian faithful to refresh, refocus and reexamine. It is a time we are meant to ask ourselves: How is the state of my soul? Am I prepared for the coming of Christ? As we hear from the Prophet Isaiah in the readings of the first Sunday of Advent, are we like polluted rags, have we all withered like leaves? Or would that our Lord meet us doing right, that we are mindful of Him in our ways (cf Isaiah 63:16b-17, 19b; 64:2-7)?

Advent truly is a season of waiting, but one of active waiting. As St. Paul exhorts us, as he did his brothers and sisters in Corinth, we must keep firm to the end, as we were called to fellowship with God’s son, Jesus Christ (Cor 1:3-9). Therefore, this anticipation of the Christ Child, the long-awaited Messiah, foretold by the Jewish prophets, whom we will receive on Christmas Day, must be anticipated in a sense of watchfulness, alertness, for we truly do not know when the time will come when the lord of the house is coming (Mk 13:13-37).

So, this Advent, we are reminded again, as in every year: “Watch!” And we are invited to prepare our hearts, to open our minds, for the arrival of the Infant Jesus, who from Bethlehem, the City of Bread, will become for us the Bread of Life – thanks be to God!

How will I prepare (how will my family prepare) for the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, The Christ this year?

Let our hearts be open and may He find his rest there, in our hearts, as he rested in the manger with Mary and Joseph. So it is with hope, faith, peace and joy may we actively participate in Christ’s arrival during this beautiful season of Advent.

Be not afraid! And may the peace of Christ be with you and your loved ones today and always.

Holy Family pray for us … Amen.

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