We have some work to do, and the seasons of Advent and Christmas offer us a tremendous opportunity to evangelize -- to speak of the precious promise who is Jesus Christ found in a manger.
"Oh what a precious promise, oh what a gift of love; the waiting now is over and the time has finally come. For the God who made this world to roll back the curtain and unveil his passion for the heart of man. Oh what a precious promise, lying in a manger in Bethlehem." (Steven Curtis Chapman, "Precious Promise," The Music of Christmas)
These words remind us of the hope that is ours through the mystery of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. God became man. He chose to be with us -- Emmanuel -- "God with us." This is the reason we truly can prepare to rejoice during these final weeks of Advent in anticipation of the great season of Christmas.
The creche is a beautiful reminder of this truth. Many of us already have taken out our nativity sets and placed them in places of prominence in our homes. Associated with St. Francis of Assisi, it quietly moves us to a greater understanding of the love God has for us, as revealed through the precious promise of his son, Jesus Christ.
One might be tempted to think that all those around us know of this promise -- know the story that the creche reminds us of during these days. Sadly, this is no longer a reality. Through the commercialization of Christmas (or should we say "holidays") and a de-emphasis on the "reason for the season," there are more and more of our brothers and sisters who have not heard or have forgotten about the greatest story ever told.
A friend of mine once was asked to join a panel at a local public school to talk about the "holidays." He shared about the story of Christmas -- the story of the creche. Afterwards, as my friend tells it, a 17 year-old-boy approached him and asked if what he had said were true -- was Christmas really about Jesus?
We have some work to do, and the seasons of Advent and Christmas offer us a tremendous opportunity to evangelize -- to speak of the precious promise who is Jesus Christ found in a manger. You can evangelize those around you when so many are paying attention to the sights and sounds of these days:
-- Place the creche where it can be seen.
Be sure to place a creche inside and outside your home where others can see it. Make it central to your decoration schemes and be prepared to talk about the hope that the scene gives about the love of God for all of humanity.
-- Consider the children.
This time of year is especially powerful when evangelizing the children in our midst. Let them be involved in the setting up of the creche while decorating. Try "hiding" baby Jesus until Christmas, and when Christmas morning arrives have one of the children/grandchildren place Jesus into the scene. Or show the wise men on their journey by placing them farther away from the creche. These offer opportunities to talk about the story, and usually lead to questions from the children.
-- Always be prepared to give an account of the hope you have.
Pray about the mystery of the Incarnation and its impact on your life. Take some time to write a brief "testimony" of the hope and joy you know due to the love that God has revealed to you through the story behind the creche. Practice saying what you write and ask the Holy Spirit to prepare you to share this witness with others when the opportunity presents itself to you.
-- Take time each day to pause during these hectic weeks.
We all can fall prey to the busyness of the season. One antidote to this temptation is to make time each day to pause for a moment in front of the creche in your home. Thank God for the gift of His Son. Reflect on His love for you and your family and His desire to have an active place in your lives each day. If you are struggling with your faith or understanding of this great mystery, ask God to illuminate your mind and heart.
The creche reminds us that we are loved by a God who chose to walk among us, to suffer for our sins, and to conquer death through the victory of the Resurrection. He wants us to know the passion He has for our hearts.
May these coming weeks be a time of great spiritual renewal and offer many moments of grace in which you are able to share this good news with those whose paths you cross. Amen.
MICHAEL LAVIGNE IS THE DIRECTOR OF THE OFFICE FOR LIFELONG FAITH FORMATION AND PARISH SUPPORT AT THE ARCHDIOCESE OF BOSTON. HIS MINISTRY IS ONE OF 50 SUPPORTED BY THE CATHOLIC APPEAL.