Friday 31 December 2010
Dear brothers and sisters, I don’t know if you are like me, but I’m fan of making a manger scene to prepare for Christmas. Yes, I love to put together the figurines all around the manger. Oh yes, it’s really a lot of fun! But I have to be careful not to break any of the figurines. That has always been my greatest fear. One broken piece and it is the end of the party, the end of the road. I’m not joking! You know I’m right! Indeed, imagine a crèche without a shepherd or a Magi or worse without the figurine of Joseph or Mary? That is simply impossible. A real and perfect manger, a dream one is a stable with angels, shepherds with lambs, Magi, an ox and a donkey, and of course, the Holy Family, and a star too! Brothers and Sisters, I’m sure that you agree with me, a dream crèche must be complete. Nobody should be missing.
But what is the reason for paying so much attention to having a perfect and complete manger? There are many other most important things in life. There must be a good reason. Is it the pleasure in doing a good job? Is it because of the realization of a wonderful work of art? …. I don’t think so, I must be honest and recognize that the figurines are often tacky and the baby Jesus is not as cute as he should be. Thus the reason is not a matter of aesthetics. The truth is elsewhere.
"Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice; let the sea and what fills it resound; let the plains be joyful and all that is in them! Then shall all the trees of the forest exult."
The solution to our existential and crucial question concerning our dream manger scene lies in this quotation of the responsorial psalm of this midnight mass. The birth of the Savior is a source of joy and exultation not only for men but also for the angels in Heaven, for every living creature on earth! "They shall exult before the Lord, for he comes; for he comes to rule the earth." That is the reason why we like to have different figurines to represent each kind of creature. All of creation rejoices in the coming of the Prince of Peace. The whole creation proclaims the greatness of the Lord, for he comes to rule the earth with peace and justice. Even though on this night the joy is common to every creature in Heaven and on earth, nonetheless they have different reasons to be happy. The angels’ joy is not the same as men’s joy and this one is distinct from the joy of nature. After the mystery of Christmas’ manger, here is another one: the mystery of Christmas’ joy.
We, men and women, children of Adam and Eve, we know why Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and the Magi are rejoicing. "I proclaim to you good news of great joy: today a Savior is born for us, Christ the Lord." A Savior is born for us. The Light has come into the world to drive away the darkness. "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light." The Life has come to destroy death and restore our life. "The grace of God has appeared, saving all…" God became man to save his people by the power of his love. We were all slaves of sin, all condemned to death. But tonight, it is, as says St Paul, "the appearance of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to deliver us from all lawlessness…" Brothers and sisters, when we look at the manger scene, we rejoice because the manger is the sign of God’s love for us.
Under those conditions, how is the angels’ joy understandable? God has come to save mankind and not angels. Yes, it is true, but the angels rejoice because of God’s love for us. They are the creatures closest to the mystery of God and then they receive their joy directly from God, who is Love and goodness. Seeing the goodness of God for men, Angels have no other choice than exultation. "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests."
Now, all that remains is to give an explanation for the joy of the donkey and of the ox. Did the animals sin like Adam and Eve? No, they didn’t. Yet they have suffered from the consequences of the original sin. Sin has broken the order and the peace of creation. And as a consequence of the restoration of mankind by Christ all of creation is restored. The coming of the Savior is really the joy of the whole creation.
Have you remarked that the figurines of our manger are smiling, even the ox and the donkey? Oh yes, I am serious. When you are back at home, have a look to your manger and you will see a smile on every face, you will see and understand why the whole creation exults tonight. And I am sure that you will also feel this joy in your heart.
This article’s author (in French)