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 | By Sister Ann Shield

Bow down: The meaning of the Christmas crèche

The Word was made flesh. The very source of life, the creator of all things of us sent his son in the likeness of sinful man. The Father sent his Son in human flesh to dwell among us that we might draw near to God. Do we?

Often, I hear people say that “we will take our children to the crib and explain to them what is going on in this scene and who he is. It is so dear, so good for the children.”

But what about us “world-weary” adults? What do we think when we look at the crib scene? Do we still believe?

God, the Father, gave us his only Son and that Son, Jesus, came into our world as a vulnerable, helpless infant depending on total care from human beings. He made himself utterly helpless so that we could draw near and not be afraid. God our Father, did not want us to be terrorized by seeing his infinite majesty. So he came “in human form, being born in the likeness of men.” (Phil 2:7)

We were made for union with God. But God will not coerce! He gave us the awe-full gift of free will so we are free to choose. We can choose to utterly reject or we can choose to draw close to that tiny infant in a cold manger, a food trough, who became like us in all things but sin so that we might more easily bow down.

Christmas crèche spiritual exercise

I would encourage you to have a manger scene in your home, beginning with Advent. Each day visit that little crèche and gaze upon this reminder that God loved you so much, he would come down to you, he would stoop so that you could gaze on him and see him eye to eye in order to save you from your sins and lead you home!

This little child is your safety, your security, your savior, the one who conquered eternal death for you! Does it take faith to believe that? Of course. So come to the crèche and kneel, bow down and ask God for faith. Maybe you will feel like a fool, but the Gospel is a paradox. It always turns things upside down and inside out. Embracing truth will set you free. “Bow down in order to be raised up.” Unless you become like a little child, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. The Gospel is a paradox over and over. God turns the world’s priorities upside down and inside out

When we bow down before that manger, we are saying, in effect: “Lord, I kneel before you. I need your help, your saving grace in my life. I need to grow in faith that I might be able to trust you with my life.” You may feel foolish, but God hears that prayer and will respond. Give him the gift of your humility this Christmas, the admission that you don’t have all the answers – even that you don’t have any answers. Many things we’ve tried in life have failed, have turned to dust …we feel empty, helpless, in need. And every time you kneel down in front of the manger during Advent, ask him for faith – faith to believe that he is a God of love, faith to believe that he forgives your sins when you admit them and ask him for forgiveness, faith that he knows you and loves you and wants to shepherd your life, if you will allow him to do so.

Then, on Christmas Eve, go to church and, before Mass, go to the manger and offer that small baby your whole life. To begin again, follow him or to follow him more closely. That infant is your Savior, your Lord, your Redeemer. God paid the ultimate price for your life. His life to save yours. Bow down and accept his gift; his gift that is beyond price.


This article was originally published December 2011.