December 2012 - Spiritual Fitness
Praying at the manger, Devotions for the season
I remember when I was a child that my father built a crèche out of balsam wood. We most often had three smaller Christmas trees that provided a backdrop for the manger. The figures were put in the last week before Christmas. For my family, it was just a custom, but Pope Benedict, in some of his Advent exhortations over the last few years, has encouraged us to put up, in a prominent place in our homes, the manger scene. The size of the crèche does not matter; the focus does! Daily prayers together could be said by the crèche. When Christmas Eve comes, some time together could be spent before the crèche thanking God for giving us his Son.
Such a daily focus during Advent can help us to put Christ back in the center of the holiday season where he belongs, and can enable us to be open to the graces that God wishes to give us.
During the first three weeks of Advent, the empty crèche reminds us to clear out all that clutters and distracts us from the centrality of Christ in our personal lives. What sin most makes it difficult for Christ to find room in my life? What should I do about that this Advent?
As we place other figures in the scene in the days leading up to the great feast, think of Mary and Joseph’s concern as to how they would provide for this new life. Humanly, Joseph could provide only an empty, dirty stable. So often we have economic concerns, or other personal concerns about how to provide for those we love. Bring those needs to the stable and ask God to carry our burdens. Put your faith in Him to provide what you need.
Take time to look at the shepherds, obedient to the voice of the angel. They were poor, eking out an existence, unnoticed by the world, of no account to most, yet God chose to use them as the first to see Him. God’s ways are not our ways. This Advent is a good time to ask God for an increase in faith – that you might begin to see life and relationships and work from his perspective.
Take some time to look at the Wise Men, whenever you insert them into the crèche. They gave up a lot to follow a star. The star over Bethlehem is the light of Christ himself – coming into the world for your salvation – and mine. Can you allow that light to penetrate your life so that you can see yourself more clearly in the light his presence gives you? “Be not afraid. Behold I bring you good tidings of great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
This Christmas, the Christ Child comes to you anew to save you from your sins. Rejoice!
A blessing for the Christmas tree
Just before the lights are turned on for the first time on Christmas Eve, the tree may be sprinkled with Holy Water as the following prayer is said:
Holy Lord, we come with joy to celebrate the birth of your Son, who rescued us from the darkness of sin by making the Cross a tree of life and light. May this tree, arrayed in splendor, remind us of the life-giving Cross of Christ, that we may always rejoice in the new life that shines in our hearts. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Blessing for the Christmas Crib
A Blessing prayer for Christmas Eve or Christmas morning, when the Christ Child is placed in the manger. The Crib may be sprinkled with Holy Water as the following blessing is said.
O God of every nation: From the very beginning of creation you have made manifest your love: When our need for a Savior was great, you sent your Son to be born of the Virgin Mary. To our lives He brings joy and peace, justice, mercy and love.
Lord, bless all who look upon this manger; may it remind us of the humble birth of Jesus, and raise up our thought to Him, who is our Emmanuel and Savior of all, who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.
– From Celebrating Advent and Christmas – A Sourcebook for Families, Women for Faith & Family, St. Louis, MO
Sister Ann Shields is a renowned author and a member of the Servants of God’s Love. Questions can be addressed to Sister Ann Shields, Renewal Ministries, 230 Collingwood, Suite 240, Ann Arbor, MI 48103
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