Pope Francis on the Nativity Scene – TTG

006 - 1

The enchanting image of the Christmas crèche, so dear to the Christian people, never ceases to arouse amazement and wonder. The depiction of Jesus’ birth is itself a simple and joyful proclamation of the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God. The nativity scene is like a living Gospel rising up from the pages of sacred Scripture. As we contemplate the Christmas story, we are invited to set out on a spiritual journey, drawn by the humility of the God who became man in order to encounter every man and woman. We come to realize that so great is his love for us that he became one of us, so that we in turn might become one with him.

With this Letter, I wish to encourage the beautiful family tradition of preparing the nativity scene in the days before Christmas, but also the custom of setting it up in the workplace, in schools, hospitals, prisons and town squares. Great imagination and creativity is always shown in employing the most diverse materials to create small masterpieces of beauty. As children, we learn from our parents and grandparents to carry on this joyful tradition, which encapsulates a wealth of popular piety. It is my hope that this custom will never be lost and that, wherever it has fallen into disuse, it can be rediscovered and revived.  (Pope Francis)


Pope Francis issued this apostolic letter during his recent visit to Greccio, the site of the first nativity scene or Christmas crèche. I never knew that Saint Francis was the creator behind this Christian phenomenon. Francis, the Pope not the Saint, goes on to explain the meanings behind the symbology and the proper place of the nativity scene in the faith and lives of Roman Catholics. You don’t have to be “raised by Jesuits” to appreciate this letter. It is far more a historical and anthropological study than an evangelical sermon… unless you’re looking for an evangelical sermon. Enjoy.

I was attracted to this letter because the nativity scene was part of every Catholic house at Christmas I ever entered in my life. My house is no different. Every year I set up the same Goebel figures that I set up for SWMBO’s and my first Christmas in our own house in Mililani Town, Hawaii. I think we bought the set at the Pearl Harbor Base Exchange. It wasn’t all that expensive and we’ve only added the two camels and a sheep in all these years. We like it and it serves to remind us every day of the season of the meaning of Christmas to Christians.

When I was growing up, my family would make at least one trip to downtown Waterbury, Connecticut to see the Christmas decorations and lights. One of the highlights was the massive Christmas crèche set on the city green. It included elaborate cave and village scenes with scores of figurines. Very impressive and without a hint of controversy in the late 50s and 60s. Waterbury went well beyond the Christmas crèche as evidenced in this story of a unique landmark of the 50s, 60s and 70s.


Merry Christmas to all,



This entry was posted in Christmas, TTG. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Pope Francis on the Nativity Scene – TTG

  1. ISL says:

    When in Italy for the holidays, my Italian wife and I (and her family) have always gone to the “Presepe Vivente” where perhaps a hundred local Marcheggiani set up living outside nativity scenes presenting typical activities going on around the birth of Christ and the birth, best viewed by torch and firelight.
    I wonder if in part, “The nativity scene is like a living Gospel rising up from the pages of sacred Scripture. ” Francis was referring to this tradition around Marche, and perhaps elsewhere in Italy and the world.
    My wife’s brother sets up the one near the family home fireplace.

  2. Serge says:

    My nativity set, worse for the wear but still very nice, has been passed down to me from my great grandfather. Complete with the aryan blonde/blue eyed wax baby jesus missing a hand. He must be kept in the freezer throughout the year. Merry Christmas

  3. Turcopolier says:

    We collect creche scenes.We have them from all over the world but my favorite is one carved in old olive wood in Bethlehem. The figures are a foot high and are fairly stylized, and have no faces. I bought it from the man who carved it.

  4. Diana C says:

    The nativity scene was also the center of our family Christmas as I was growing up. Santa Clause was just an almost cartoon image that we never believed in, really.
    My brother and father had worked together to create our creche. Then for several years, we built the scene itself, which was placed under our tree. (Our family was not wealthy, so we could buy only one or two figures each year.)
    The local Woolworth’s story sold the figures, so we were able to purchase those figures there, starting, of course, with the holy family. Our tree had only twinkling blue lights. We could lie on the floor and look at the scene with the blue lights twinkling above like stars on a dark winter’s night. A large bright star topped our tree.
    Our Christmas Eve service always featured the reenactment of St. Luke 2 by the Sunday school classes. I was very young when I memorized that chapter, and I can still recite it.
    When I was ten, I had no money but wanted to give my Grandmother, my father’s mother, a gift for Christmas because she was often sad, remembering her home in Russia. She had been orphaned when her parents died in a buggy accident, and she had been raised by her older sister, my Great Aunt Katherine. My mother told me that Grandma always wished she could hear some of the German children’s Christmas songs that she had sung and heard as a little girl. Mom and I got to work,, and I learned “Ihr Kinderlein Kommet,” a three-verse children’s Christmas song that is still sung by German children. The whole song is about the scene in Bethlehem: the manger, the baby Jesus in his “reinlichen Windeln” while Mary and Josef “betrachten es froh,” and the shepherds kneel praying before the manger.
    I have always been annoyed by the orgy of gift buying and partying around Christmas. I agree with the Pope. This season should be a a time for reflection on the meaning and on the wonder of the Incarnation.

  5. akaPatience says:

    I live in a midwestern city that has a large Roman Catholic population. Our beautiful public conservatory displays a life-sized nativity scene every Christmas season and many thousands of people visit it. I’m so happy this nearly century-old tradition has been upheld to help renew and contextualize the celebration of Christmas. It’s lovely and quite inspiring.

  6. oldman22 says:

    “According to Bonaventure, Francis in 1223 sought permission from Pope Honorious III to do something “for the kindling of devotion” to the birth of Christ. As part of his preparations, Francis “made ready a manger, and bade hay, together with an ox and an ass,” in the small Italian town of Greccio.
    One witness, among the crowd that gathered for this event, reported that Francis included a carved doll which cried tears of joy and “seemed to be awakened from sleep when the blessed Father Francis embraced Him in both arms.”
    This miracle of the crying doll moved all who were present, Bonaventure writes. But Francis made another miracle happen, too: The hay that the child lay in healed sick animals and protected people from disease.”

  7. scott s. says:

    The tradition continues in Mililani Town, at least in our house and of course also at St John A&E Church.

Comments are closed.