The joy of Christmas is different for everyone. For St. Francis of Assisi both Christ and Mary had a very special place in his heart.

On Christmas Eve in 1223, three years prior to his death, Francis had an idea to recreate the scene in Bethlehem, the first crèche at Greccio, Italy with live animals and hay for the manger. Francis wanted to see as much as possible with his own eyes the discomfort that was felt that night by the infant laying on hay among the animals.

In celebrating the birth of Jesus, Francis wanted it to have reverence and to arouse devotion because he believed that the poverty of Christ had become lost in the extravagance of the Christmas festivities. Might this be happening now with people putting more emphasis on presents than the presence of the one sent to save us, Christ?

It was not just St. Francis celebrating; there with him were the Franciscans and townspeople. Fr. Murray Bodo, OFM in his book “From Francis and Jesus” describes the people’s reaction: “The parishioners and pilgrims who came to Greccio for Midnight Mass and witnessed the Christmas manger scene were much impressed with the simplicity of St. Francis’ crèche…” Do we just put out our crèche or nativity scene or do we gaze upon it and wonder? Do you wonder what it was like for Mary, Joseph and Jesus? Do you wonder what it was like for St. Francis and everyone celebrating the recreated scene from Bethlehem?

Take the time this Christmas and gaze upon your crèche or nativity scene and wonder.

May the Christmas Joy be with you this Christmas season!

– Sr. Barb Knauf