Did a crib feature in your Christmas decorations?
Many people will return to work today. No doubt one of the tasks that’ll be allocated to someone is to take down the Christmas decorations. Some, of course, argue for them to be kept until ‘Twelfth Night’ but many workplaces will want the New Year ‘return to normality’ to start as soon as possible.
The question I want to ask today is “did your Christmas decorations include a crib scene?” If it didn’t, would you have liked it to?
Some workplaces won’t see a place for a crib in a commercial/secular Christmas. Others will shy away from doing so, for fear of offending anyone who doesn’t share the Christian faith. With this thought in mind, I was intrigued last year by a workplace that allowed a special Diwali scene to be set up by one of its members but wouldn’t countenance a Christmas crib. Is there a difference between some festivals being seen as cultural and others being seen as being about faith I wonder…..?
This year, Pope Francis attempted to tackle this question. He issued an apostolic letter on 01 December about the meaning and importance of nativity scenes or cribs. He called for this “wonderful sign” to be more widely displayed in family homes and public places throughout the world:
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.
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 workplaces, schools, hospitals, prisons and town squares.
Pope Francis wrote his latest apostolic letter after travelling to the Italian town of Greccio. This is where St Francis of Assisi created the first nativity crib scene in 1223. Fifteen days before Christmas that year, the saint asked a friend to help him “bring to life” the memory of Christ’s birth in Bethlehem. When St Francis arrived, he found a manger full of hay, an ox and a donkey. There were no statues for the people in the scene – instead the nativity scene was enacted by all who were present. Afterwards, those present described it as a new and indescribably joyful experience.
By encouraging people to set up cribs in homes, workplaces, and public spaces, Pope Francis wanted to encourage a similar experience for today. The pope also gave his approval for people to add to the nativity scene other figures that have no apparent connection with the Gospel accounts. This is common practice in Italy and parts of Latin America. He said:
From the shepherd to the blacksmith, from the baker to the musicians, from the women carrying jugs of water to the children at play: all this speaks of the everyday holiness, the joy of doing ordinary things in an extraordinary way, born whenever Jesus shares his divine life with us.
So, as the Christmas decorations come down in your workplace, would you like to see a crib amongst next year’s decorations? If not, why not? If yes, how traditional would it be? Would you prefer one with ‘extra’ figures that speak to your context?
The image connected with this blog post was a crib scene displayed at Grimsby’s Riverhead Coffee in 2015