Do you display a nativity scene in your home or yard during the Advent and Christmas seasons? Pope Francis released an Apostolic Letter on the first day of Advent this year, Admirabile Signum, on the meaning and importance of the nativity scene. He encourages the faithful to not let go of this simple and meaningful tradition.
“What Pope Francis has done in this short … reflection is remind us of the great symbolism and … that great tradition of handing on the 2nd century devotion,” explained Msgr. Stuart Swetland, host of Go Ask Your FatherTM, in an interview on A Closer LookTM.
Pope Francis honors his namesake by acknowledging this ancient custom. Saint Francis and the Franciscans spread the crèche devotion that focuses on the reality of the incarnation. It’s something that brings a smile to people’s faces and fills hearts with joy, while bringing their minds back to that first Christmas night.
“Why does the Christmas crèche arouse such wonder and move us so deeply? First, because it shows God’s tender love: the Creator of the universe lowered himself to take up our littleness. The gift of life, in all its mystery, becomes all the more wondrous as we realize that the Son of Mary is the source and sustenance of all life. In Jesus, the Father has given us a brother who comes to seek us out whenever we are confused or lost, a loyal friend ever at our side. He gave us his Son who forgives us and frees us from our sins,” writes Pope Francis in Admirabile Signum.
Why is this simple action so impactful? It’s a way to evangelize. “The pope is asking that these pious practices be handed down generation to generation and that we not forget that these simple gestures, like putting out a crèche scene, is a way of evangelizing. A way of reminding people that God … became one with us—he took on all the vulnerability and weakness of being a baby. And that we recognize that an aspect of love is to be vulnerable,” said Msgr. Swetland.
There’s a beauty and peace found when we gaze upon the Baby Jesus, whose arms are often outstretched in love. The smiles on the faces of Christ, his Mother Mary, and Saint Joseph draw us to a deeper joy and hope. And when we continue this tradition with our families, we do the important work of sharing the Catholic Faith with future generations.
The Holy Father said, “The Christmas crèche is part of the precious yet demanding process of passing on the faith. Beginning in childhood, and at every stage of our lives, it teaches us to contemplate Jesus, to experience God’s love for us, to feel and believe that God is with us and that we are with him, his children, brothers and sisters all, thanks to that Child who is the Son of God and the Son of the Virgin Mary. And to realize that in that knowledge we find true happiness.”
Read the full apostolic letter, Admirabile Signum.
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