The following is an excerpt of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Letter “ADMIRABILE SIGNUM” on the meaning and importance of the nativity scene.
As the Holy Mother Church enters into the season of “waiting” and preparing for the Lord. Pope Francis reminds the faithful of the “enchanting image” of the Christmas crèche, so dear to Christians and one which never ceases to arouse amazement and wonder.
The letter, published on December 1 (the beginning of Advent) expounded on the depiction of Jesus’ birth; a simple and joyful proclamation of the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God. The Holy Father stated, “The nativity scene is like a living Gospel rising up from the pages of sacred Scripture.”
He also encouraged all people of goodwill to contemplate the Christmas story where “we are invited to set out on a spiritual journey, drawn by the humility of the God who became man in order to encounter every man and woman. We come to realize that so great is his love for us that he became one of us, so that we in turn might become one with him.”
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.
“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. Great imagination and creativity is always shown in employing the most diverse materials to create small masterpieces of beauty. As children, we learn from our parents and grandparents to carry on this joyful tradition, which encapsulates a wealth of popular piety. 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”.