The gospel passage that we have heard concludes with the words spoken by the shepherds: Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us
(Lk 2:15). Like them, we too have come to gather around the manger. Gazing upon the images that we find here helps us to contemplate the great miracle that took place so many years ago. Our Holy Father has referred to the manger scene as a living gospel rising up from the pages of sacred Scripture (Apostolic Letter, Admirabile signum
These figurines stand still, and yet they recall the truth of a moment in time when our ancestors in faith, who walked in darkness had seen a great light (Is 9:2) and we have been walking in the light of faith ever since. It is good for us to recall the story, to remember the details of that night, for even today, we are still living out its fulfillment.
At the centre of the manger scene, we find the figures of Mary and Joseph. The decree issued by Caesar Augustus had compelled them to travel from their home in Nazareth to the city of David (cf Lk 2:4), a journey that would have taken them at least three days. Worn out from the journey, Mary gave birth to her firstborn son
(Lk 2:7). If we look closely at the figure of Mary, we will find a mother who contemplates her child and shows him to every visitor
(AS, 7). We can almost hear the words of her response to the angel's invitation: Behold, I am the handmaiden of the Lord; be it done ... according to your word
(Lk 1:38). Mary shows us all how to abandon ourselves in faith to God's will.
At Mary's side, we find the figure of Joseph. The figurine in our manger scene portrays him holding a hat. As he gazes upon the child, it is as though he is also hearing the words that were spoken to him by the angel: She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins
(Mt 1:21). Joseph is usually thought of as the guardian who tirelessly protected the Holy Family, but at that particular moment, I wonder whether he himself was perplexed, wondering how he was going to fulfill the role that God was calling him to play. There are many young fathers and mothers who know that feeling of worry only too well. Young parents are often filled with joy at the birth of their children, but at the same time, they can be overcome with concern and worry for the future in which their children will live. We can all look to Saint Joseph and ask him to help us to look to the future with hope.
Once the statuette of the infant Jesus is placed in the manger, the entire scene comes alive. God appears to us in the form of a child. Hidden in weakness and frailty, he conceals his great power of his love, a love that he reveals by smiling and by opening his arms to all of us (cf AS, 8). In this newborn infant, the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all of us
(Titus 2:11). The manger scene is a snapshot of our lives too. In these images, we dare to seek and to find reasons for hope and for joy. These are the eternal gifts that are offered by our God. Let us celebrate and give thanks.
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