Sunday, December 11, 2011

Laid in a Manger

A while ago I was reading the book Francis:  the journey and the dream, a beautiful blending of biography and meditation on the life of St. Francis of Assisi by the Franciscan priest and poet, Fr. Murray Bodo.  In it I found this wonderful reflection on Francis' understanding of Christmas:
"At Christmas it was the infant Christ who was born again in human hearts, and it struck Francis that God came to earth as a baby so that we would have someone to care for.  Christmas was the dearest of feasts because it meant that God was now one of us.  Flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone, this child we could approach without fear.  We could be silly and uninhibited as we sought to make Him laugh.  We could be totally ourselves because a child accepts us just as we are and screams with delight at our little performances on his behalf.

Someone to care for, someone to try and please, someone to love.  God, a helpless babe; God, a piece of Bread.  How much trust God had in creatures!  In the Eucharist and in the Nativity, we group up, because God places Himself in our care.  We come out of ourselves if we are aware, because we now have responsibilities for God.  Not only the earth to till and creation to subdue, but now God to care for."
History has it that the first nativity scene was created by St. Francis in 1223 because he wanted to encourage people to really engage with "God [the] helpless babe."  This seems to have gotten lost in all the hubub and hullabaloo surounding the holiday.  Yet even those who would have us "put the Christ back in Christmas" seem to be totally focused on the adult Jesus, even the crucified Christ.  But what about that baby?  That little, helpless baby for which we "now have responsibilities"?  What would it mean to your spiritual life if you spent this Advent season not so much preparing to receive God as preparing to take care of God?

In Gassho,

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1 comment:

Ellen Bachman said...

29 years ago, our family "starred" in the Christmas pagent with our 3 week old daughter. There was a simple set, and at the end of the service, people were invited to come foward past us to leave offerings on the altar, and pick up a bit of straw from the tableau. The aisle stayed full for more than 20 minutes, as those arriving for the next (more formal) service also came forward. Since everyone has 1003 things to do on Christmas Eve, it was non-rational to stand in line to leave an offering that could be taken over to the church office! I've always been convinced that the inclusion of a genuine newborn as Baby Jesus helped people get in touch with the wonder and fragility of the incarnation.