Each year, the children present us with this very beautiful reenactment of the Christmas story, and they do that with great enthusiasm and excitement. Witness the dedication to detail – the preciseness of their costumes, as well as the way they make the whole scene flow. So they remind us that this is a very special time of the year.
But I think, unfortunately, in the midst of the world in which we live, much gets lost of the symbolism, the meaning and significance of this special time. So when the children present the beautiful scene, I ask you to take a moment to reflect, to reflect on the scene, for Luke and Matthew – that’s where the gospel today came from: a combination of Luke and Matthew who the record for us the infancy story – they did that with great deliberation and they wanted in a sense in the scene that they were portraying capture the universality of this event, for it was an event that brought together of the mystery of God’s creation.
Mary and Joseph, come to Bethlehem, because Caesar Augustus has decided he wants to count all the people. He wants you in a sense to build his power, build his power, by saying, look all the people I rule over. How can anyone doubt me, how can anyone challenge me?
And yet, in the midst of that moment, God chose to reveal, really the story of creation in that little scene in Bethlehem, the story of creation unfolds. For Jesus and Mary; Joseph and Mary come and they find no place. The town is overwhelmed with people who have come for the census, and so they go to the cave, some say a barn, but some place in the midst of where the animals are. And it is significant that they go to the place where the animals are. Creation is a story of Harmony, the story of unity.
And so in the midst of that scene, a child is born. An infant in swaddling clothes and placed in a manger. The place is cold: it’s winter and so it is the warmth of the animals’ breath that creates that scene, that warmth, that sense that everything is okay.
And then come the shepherds with the sheep.They were on the outskirts – if you ever go to Bethlehem, you will see that from the site where the nativity is said to have taken place, where they are are on the outskirts of town, a place called the shepherd’s field, because nobody wanted their smell or the smell of the sheep. So they were outcasts, they were put aside, and yet it is to them that the angels first come and bring the good news, bring glad tidings. They were the first to come and offer worship. They were outsiders God invites in, brings to this very special moment.
And along with the Shepherds you have the Wise Men, who come later, but who represent in a sense the secular role, coming from different places, and again, of different ethnic and religious backgrounds, and they all come to one place, where there, they might find the gift of God, and the gift of God is embodied in the Child, in Jesus.
But that can be significant, because that child is not your children, in cribs or bassinets, or those beautiful things, but placed in the manger, the feeding trough of the animals. You have this scene of creation unfolding. God has another message in the that I will build, I will build this Kingdom, represented in this scene. I will build it by continually feeding you: feeding you with my life.
The Child in the Manger is the sign of the Eucharist, the sign of how God continues to draw us into the mystery of God’s life. That that fulfillment of creation might ultimately be a change. In a sense, there may come a day – as Isaiah so beautifully prophesizes – there may come a day on God’s holy mountain when harmony, when unity, when joy and when peace will reign over the face of the Earth.
As we prepare for Christmas, that’s what we’re preparing for: preparing to remember, to remember that this is what God has deigned to do and invited us as the children participated in this beautiful scene, inviting all of us to participate – day in and day out – to make this scene live.
Brothers and sisters, that is the ultimate challenge of Christmas. We thank the children for participating in presenting this great remembrance. We pray that it inspires all of us in these days that are coming, as we prepare for the great day of Christmas, that we take time , as we put that nativity scene together in our homes, we take time to take each of those pieces, to remember what they represent, and make them, make them a part of our living going forward.
We invite the children now to go back to their places. Because Life goes on.