Thursday, December 15, 2011
by Sister Laura Zelten
I love receiving Christmas cards and seeing all the ways in which artists depict the manger scene. My favorite card this year shows Mary holding the baby Jesus close to her heart, like a mother holds her newborn infant. St. Francis teaches us that the Christmas scene is love pure and simple. It is about seeing the Christ child with our own heart.
Thomas of Celano, a 13th century Italian friar of the Franciscans and author of several texts for church leaders, wrote how St. Francis proclaimed the birth of our Savior in the village of Greccio:
"Finally, the day of joy has drawn near; the time of exultation has come. From many different places the Brothers have been called. As they could, the men and women of the neighborhood with exultant hearts prepared candles and torches to light up that night whose shining star has enlightened every day and year. Finally, the holy man of God (Francis) comes and, finding all things prepared, he saw them and was glad. Indeed, the manger is prepared, the hay is carried in, and the ox and the [mule] are led to the spot. There, simplicity is given a place of honor, poverty is exalted, and humility is commended, and out of Greccio is made a new Bethlehem."
The story of Christmas at Greccio is one of the most popular known stories about Francis. Francis wanted to celebrate Christmas in way that would speak to the hearts of his brothers and peasant people of his time so he brought real animals to set the simple scene. He showed the birth of Jesus, the Incarnation, as love pure and simple. Our God came as a child, small and vulnerable; let us rejoice in the simplicity and humbleness of the Christmas scene. May the birth of Jesus be at the center of your Christmas celebrations.