Today I would like to draw attention to the nativity scene. Many of us probably grew up with a nativity scene in the home, and now our families have nativity sets of our own. For most of the year these nativity sets stay packed away and come out once a year when we put them up as a family at Christmas. We might look at it for a few seconds, and if we’re lucky, actually talk about it. Then for the rest of Christmas the nativity set just sits there, never thought of again until we take it down many weeks later.
I think it’s worth asking ourselves, how important are nativity sets? What relevance, if any, do they have for us? Have they become a mindless tradition which few people pay attention to anymore? Do they just get lost in the Christmas decoration crowd?
I think nativity scenes are much more than just another Christmas decoration, and it seems to me that many have forgotten its original intent. Few remember the fact that the first nativity set was made by St. Francis of Assisi and it was meant to remind us of what Christmas is all about—the birth of Christ. You see, even in the days of St. Francis many were consumed with gift-giving and other Christmas anxieties while forgetting the true purpose and meaning of Christmas.
So, how do we, as fathers, rekindle the importance of the nativity set? That is what I will attempt to discuss in this blog.
Option 1:Display your nativity set in a prominent place in the house – This is what I feel many families do already, and those that don’t should certainly adopt this practice. Why? Even if you don’t give much more attention to the nativity set in your house than a passing glance, this is still better than no glance at all. And perhaps that glance, while on your way to work or to the store to shop, will remind you that the true spirit and meaning of Christmas lies in what that nativity scene symbolizes. This option is the very least we can do. But still, I think that this option doesn’t quite solve the problem of making the nativity set more relevant to our lives during the Christmas season.
Option 2 : Make an activity out of the nativity set with the family – This is also not a bad idea as well as with option one. Perhaps when you put up your nativity scene, do it with the whole family and take the time to discuss each piece of the nativity and its importance to the Christmas story. This option is certainly a step up from option 1, but again, this only lasts for an hour or so before the nativity set eventually becomes just another symbol on the mantel.
Option 3: Pray before the Nativity scene as often as possible – This option is the best out of the three, in my opinion. Imagine if you and your family prayed around the nativity once a week, or daily? Would that not make the nativity scene much more important to your family? Would this not inspire greater devotion to the Holy Family? There are also a great many nativity prayers to say before the nativity scene including one from St. Augustine and St. Bernard of Clarivaux. By praying before the nativity it will bring yourself and your family to reflect more and more on the nativity and the importance the birth of Christ has in the Christian story and the lives of every Christian.
What do you think about these three options? All of these options are great and I encourage you to try them with your family. Start with numbers 1 and 2, and if you can, work up to number 3. I know that option 3 is always easier said than done in the busy and hectic lives of most families today, but it’s worth a shot in the least.
Where do you display the nativity set in your family? How does your family use your nativity set?