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Christmas controversies

 “Keep Christ in Christmas” controversies erupt every Christmas season.  But among those who keep Christ in Christmas with nativity scenes, there are also controversies. These are the “don’t mess with my nativity scene” controversies. Or at least the nativity scene as I remember it.

Today there are controversies about whether it is appropriate to add other figures such as migrants and those for whom there is no room at the inns of today. Last year it was jarring to see Jesus, Mary, and Joseph in cages at the border.

This year the Vatican Nativity scene has evoked both amusement and ire. The Vatican unveiled its official Nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square on Friday evening, surprising some with its inclusion of an astronaut and another Martian-like being coming to adore the Christ child.

Learning to see the message of the nativity scene

As I have found so often, Pope Francis opens my eyes to things I had not noticed. In 2019 Pope Francis reviewed the various elements of the story and presents deeper meanings as a tool for evangelization:

  • “The Magi teach us that people can come to Christ by a very long route.”
  • “The presence of the poor and the lowly in the nativity scene remind us that God became man for the sake of those who feel most in need of his love and who ask him to draw near to them”

As we contemplate the biblical images of lowly shepherds and the angels he reminds us that:

  • ” … we are called to reflect on the responsibility of every Christian to spread the Gospel. Each of us is called to bear glad tidings to all, testifying by our practical works of mercy to the joy of knowing Jesus and his love.”
  • “Children – but adults too! – often love to add to the nativity scene other figures that have no apparent connection with the Gospel accounts. Yet, each in its own way, these fanciful additions show that in the new world inaugurated by Jesus there is room for whatever is truly human and for all God’s creatures”.

How I find new insights in each nativity scene

I now realize that I need to enter into and see myself as each of the people and elements in the nativity scene.

When I do that I wonder how many lessons of the nativity scene I have missed.  When I do that I wonder if I am:

  • a nobody Jesus calls to bear witness.
  • the innkeeper who kept Jesus at a comfortable distance and even at times shutting the doors of my  heart.
  • a Herod who has not recognized the body of Christ in those he allowed to be slaughtered by not advocating for them.’

I am beginning to see that every aspect of the nativity scene is a challenge to see some aspect of myself and use that knowledge to grow as a Christian.

So maybe there are lessons I can learn from an astronaut and Martian-like figure coming to adore the Christ child.

It seems the central motivation behind the Vatican’s Nativity scene is communicating that Christ came for all people.

Entering the nativity scene today:

  • Are you ready to place yourself in the nativity scene?
  • When have you been each of the persons in the creche?
  • How does each person and element in the nativity scene call you to growth and action?
  • Who would you personally like to see represented in the nativity scene?

For other examples of nativity scenes from around the world visit the Univerity of Dayton’s collection of modern and not so modern nativity scenes

Click below for an audio version of this Vincentian Mindwalk.

Don’t mess with my nativity scene

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