By ARCHBISHOP WILTON D. GREGORY, Commentary | Published December 21, 2017 | En Español
I have about a dozen of them around the house. I just received a new one as a Christmas gift from our Cathedral parish—an Irish Belleek porcelain beauty. It now joins my Waterford, olive wood and German cast iron ones. The crèches that fill my house are vivid reminders of the event that they are intended artistically and culturally to represent—the birth of the infant Christ in humble surroundings, in stark poverty. These Nativity displays are so much a part of this time of year that most of us could not imagine not admiring them as a regular part of the Christmas season.
Some crèches are cutting-edge and contemporary in their design, and a few folks may find them to be distasteful because they introduce modern items into their presentation, like the one that has Mary taking a selfie with the infant Christ. Other Nativity displays can be charming like the live one, widely shared in cyberspace, showing a toddler walking off with the infant Jesus taken from the manger. Another creation of a Nativity scene used live animals, only to have the cow make a break for freedom (twice!) and then head straight for the bright lights of the city. Such events bring a smile to the faces of lots of people, as this deeply religious moment is brought into contemporary and humorous expression.
I recall that when I was still in Chicago, Holy Name Cathedral annually had an ornate Nativity scene placed on the side of the Cathedral church. Routinely, some pranksters would abscond with one of the figures, and the evening news would have to appeal to the person or persons who took the donkey from the Cathedral to please return it. The “theft” was each time done in jest, and the televised news announcement brought a chuckle to folks and always resulted in the restoration of the figure without any criminal prosecution.
Modern Nativity scenes frequently use the native attire and racial identity of the artists who created them. The birth of the Christ therefore becomes a contemporary event through the creative genius of the artists. These crèches are important because they convey the ageless truth that the birth of the Christ is a timeless moment in salvation history. Jesus’ birth touches each age and culture as a particular moment of grace. Christ comes to all people, and the mystery of the Incarnation means that he becomes one of us in all things but sin. This Infant, whose historic birth was 2,000 years ago, continues to enter and touch the lives of every nation throughout human history.
As I look at the many Nativity scenes throughout my home, I am reminded of the rich diversity of our people here in the Archdiocese of Atlanta and how the Christ Child is reflected in your goodness and through your faith.
May each home in this local Church be filled with laughter and hope this Christmas. As you gather as a family this Christmas, may you see Christ in one another and come to bless God for the gift of his Son in your homes and hearts and in the homes and hearts of your neighbors and friends.
Merry Christmas, my dear brothers and sisters. You are a living crèche for me each day. May 2018 be blessed with good health, spiritual growth and much joy for each one of you.