Pope encourages Nativity scenes at home and in public

Pope Francis visits a Nativity scene displayed in St Peter’s Square in 2017 (CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis has written an apostolic letter on the meaning and importance of setting up Nativity scenes at home and in public. Source: CNS.

A Nativity scene is a simple reminder of something astonishing: God became human to reveal the greatness of his love “by smiling and opening his arms to all,” Pope Francis said in the letter Admirabile Signum (“Enchanting Image”).

“Wherever it is, and whatever form it takes, the Christmas creche speaks to us of the love of God, the God who became a child in order to make us know how close he is to every man, woman and child, regardless of their condition,” the Pope wrote.

He signed the short letter yesterday, the first Sunday of Advent, during an afternoon visit to Greccio where St Francis of Assisi set up the first Nativity scene in 1223.

When St Francis had a cave prepared with a hay-filled manger, an ox and a donkey – no statues or actors or baby, even – he “carried out a great work of evangelisation,” Pope Francis said, and Catholics can and must continue that work today.

“With this letter,” he wrote, “I wish to encourage the beautiful family tradition of preparing the Nativity scene in the days before Christmas, but also the custom of setting it up in the workplace, in schools, hospitals, prisons and town squares.”

“It is my hope that this custom will never be lost and that, wherever it has fallen into disuse, it can be rediscovered and revived,” the Pope said.

At the heart of even the simplest Nativity scene, he said, there is a reminder of “God’s tender love: the Creator of the universe lowered himself to take up our littleness.”

The magic of the season goes deep when someone – child or adult – gazes upon a Nativity scene, he said. And whether or not they can put what they experience into words, they come away knowing that “God’s ways are astonishing, for it seems impossible that he should forsake his glory to become a man like us.”

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Pope asks Catholics to set up, be enchanted by a Nativity scene (CNS)

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