Voices From The Christmas Crèche
Published: December 18, 2008
Christmas is synonymous with joy. There are the parties, the glittering lights and the cookies made only this season—and, of course, let’s not forget the presents.
Even if my husband and I say every year, “Let’s not exchange gifts,” we always break down—and frankly, that’s fine with me. The gifts are simple, but there is something about a package all wrapped up that speaks of mystery and hope.
But in the midst of glitter and gaiety and gift-giving, it is easy to overlook something that is nestled beneath the tree, very near the presents.
It is the humble little crèche.
No matter how bad the economy might be and no matter how dark and dreary the news media portray the world, hope abides in the simple figures gathered there.
There is Joseph, a man who loved and protected the baby, as if he were Joseph’s own flesh and blood. And there is Mary, the one who gave birth to the most wondrous baby ever born in the most humble circumstances of all.
And, of course, at the center lies the tiny baby, the shining figure of hope and the greatest mystery imaginable: the word made flesh and God among us.
This baby would grow into a man who would one day tell his disciples: “Unless you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 18:3).
These words remind us we must humble ourselves, just as God did, when he limited himself to space and time to become a human being.
Through a miracle God became a child, and he has called us to another miracle: to change our hearts sufficiently to become childlike. But this is difficult advice because many of our hearts have become hardened. We have grown cynical.
And we have forgotten, perhaps, what Christmas is all about.
The Christmas crèche calls us to remember the most basic things. It reminds us that God didn’t require opulence and wealth as he entered the world, but instead chose poverty and humility.
It also reminds us that God came into the world helpless and totally dependent on others to care for him. He relied on Mary to feed him and on Joseph to protect him from Herod’s soldiers.
And, like children, we too must acknowledge our full dependence on God.
The crèche seems a silent place, but if you listen closely enough, you may hear the voices there.
Listen to Mary saying, “Let it be done to me according to thy word.” Hear the angels proclaiming, “Peace on earth and good will to men.”
Maybe you can hear the baby crying in hunger, the same baby that one day would cry as a man from the cross, “I thirst.”
No matter how elaborate our Christmas celebrations may be, the simplicity of this scene is always the same. There are the animals, the bed of hay, and the gentle little group gathered around the holy child.
And why did that child come? If we listen closely, we can hear the voice of Jesus giving us the answer: “For God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in him, may not perish, but may have life everlasting” (Jn 3:16).
Christmas is indeed a time of feasting and partying. It is a time to open our hearts to savor the joy we felt as children as we explore the mysterious boxes piled beneath the tree.
Most of all, it is a time to thank God for his great love for us. After all, he sent us the most wondrous Christmas present of all, the most mysterious and miraculous gift imaginable.
A baby to change the world forever. A baby to light up the darkness with hope.
Lorraine Murray’s latest book is “Confessions of an Ex-Feminist,” a spiritual autobiography. The Murrays attend St. Thomas More Church in Decatur. Readers may write them at email@example.com.