Fr Dominic Writes: Has our whole story of Christmas & the crib become too pretty & sweet?

Fr Dominic
Parish Priest

When we look at the crib everything looks so pretty, so peaceful, so orderly. Not a cry is heard from the child, not a sound from the donkey or the oxen, not a smell of any kind. The straw is clean. With our inward ear we hear the singing of the angels and when we look up we see the star which led the Magi to Bethlehem.
This is pretty, and we might want to believe it. But we know it is not real. It is not true. It is a false picture. Everything was not as neat and pretty as that. The first Christmas was as full of hurry and worry as our Christmas is. It was full of uncertainty, disappointment and fear. It was no picnic for Mary and Joseph. It was more like an ordeal, perhaps even a nightmare. They had just completed a long difficult journey. They arrived in Bethlehem, poor, unknown, and without influence of any kind. They were unable to find accommodation. When the time came for Mary to give birth there was no one to assist.
It is too easy to move away from the poverty of the original crib. We have a tendency to pretty up the Christmas story, But, in doing that we remove it from us. We empty it of much of the meaning it carries for us.
It was St. Francis of Assisi who assembled the first crib in a cave on an Italian hillside in the year 1223. His aim was to make the Christmas story come alive for the local people. His idea was to show them how close it was to them and their lives. He succeeded. On Christmas Eve the friars and the people assembled with candles and torches around the crib. Francis spoke to the people who were mostly farmers and shepherds about God’s Son coming among them to teach us that we too are children of God and that as such we have an eternal destiny. The shepherds and farmers got the message: God had time for simple folks like them. At then end of the vigil they all returned to their homes full of peace and joy, feeling vey close to God and to each other.

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