Saint Francis and Christmas

Christmas cribChristmas was Francis’s  special feast. It was for him the Feast of Feasts. Because the All Good God chose to be born in human flesh.  The word was conceived in the womb 0f the Virgin and our all Good God was born  in a stable.  Francis wanted to make people more aware of this tremendous mystery . God’s love revealed in the Incarnation.                                                                      Francis had a very special friend, John living in Greccio in the Rieta Valley,whom he summoned to come to him .Francis outlined his plans to him to make Christmas a very special event for the whole of creation.”I wish to enact the memory of that babe born in Bethlehem; to see with my own bodily eyes  the discomfort of his infant needs , how he laid in a manger , and how with an ox and ass standing by he rested on the hay.” John went and prepared the place Francis had requested. In this dramatic re-enactment of the events of Bethlehem, Francis wished to recall the simplicity, and poverty, the inconveniences and humility of the Christ  Child’s birth. Most of all he wanted to celebrate the mystery  of God’s great love , a love that God made concrete in a little child wrapped in swaddling clothes, a love that had the power to remake the world , a love that  invited one to become a new creature, a love that invited people to believe in the impossible, a love that asked all to forget their sin and darkness and trust God’s goodness. At midnight Mass, Francis used words in his sermon ,but he also made the Incarnation real and immediate through props; an ox, an ass, a cave, singing and the warmth of love. the setting not only helped people to celebrate an event that happened twelve hundred  years before , but it also helped them to open their hearts to God’s love and the coming of Christ into them again. Greccio was made ,as it were into a new Bethlehem.                                                                                                                                           Francis’s   focus on Christmas as the Feast of Feast’s and the manifestation of God’s love gave birth to a new understanding of the Incarnation.  We learn from the great theologian John Duns Scotus that  the whole purpose of  creation on God’s part was to come to a point in time ,for the Incarnation of God’s Son to take place as the most resplendent creative act of God . when God decided to create, the Incarnation had to be the first and foremost in God’s mind, and not dependent on any human action , especially sin . This was the natural outflow of God’s love, and God, above all wished to communicate to us the fullness of divine love, what better way than to send the Son. This image helps us to appreciate the depth and beauty of our humanness . Our human nature is good .this gives us a new and transformed image of God , not as someone who is vindictive and waiting to punish us for sin ,or someone who is constrained to react to our manipulations. The God we see in this image is one of such overflowing love that it spills over into all creation and into our hearts. The Greccio event ,provided an impetus for a refreshing new way to understand the  Incarnation. You are someone special to the Lord. You are someone God has called to a newness you cannot even imagine, a newness  made visible by the Incarnation of God’s beloved Son.  After all God has given us a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes to help us realise we need not be overwhelmed by what often seems to be a truth beyond our imagining .

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