I just feel a bit weird just thinking, where has September gone? I used to say goodbye for each month that passes and greet the new month with so much hope and wonder. But when September comes to a close, I am excited that October would show its face again, for the simple reason that it’s my birth month. I am not exactly looking forward to another year of getting older, it’s more like I am excited about our coming baby. I only have one wish this time, I am praying that baby Nate would have the same birthday as I have. What a lovely celebration it would be if that happens.
I’ll always remember this month as the start of the Christmas season here in the Philippines. Through the years when September comes, you’ll always hear Christmas songs on the radio being played the whole month of September. And I was surprised when I saw Christmas trees on display at National Bookstore this early. And they are not in the traditional color of green, they come in shocking shades of purple, silver and gold. I was wondering, what color of decor would you combine with a deep shade of violet? Would it match the beauty of the Christmas colors of red, green and gold? I think I’ll forego putting up the Christmas tree this time. I want to have a nativity crèche instead. I am inspired about the story of how the Christmas crèche came to be.
The history of the Christmas crèche in art and literature is a story in of itself, but the real turning point was St. Francis of Assisi’s inspiration. For the Saint, Christmas had always been the Feast of Feasts, yet he did not think it had been celebrated as it could have been, The poverty of Christ had become lost in the extravagance of the Christmas festivities An idea occurred to him and while on a visit to Rome, he received permission from the Pontiff to put his idea to work.
The story of how St. Francis of Assisi “invented” the crib is so delightful and inspiring that it might be told or read to the children every year. We give here the account in the very words of Brother Thomas de Celano, who was there when it happened and who wrote it down:
Blessed Francis called a friend about two weeks before Christmas and said to him: ‘If you desire that we should celebrate this year’s Christmas together at Greccio, go quickly and prepare what I tell you; for I want to enact the memory of the Infant Who was born at Bethlehem, and how He was deprived of all the comforts babies enjoy; how He was bedded in a manger on hay, between an ass and an ox. For once I want to see all this with my own eyes.’ When the good and faithful man had heard this, he departed quickly and prepared in the above-mentioned place everything that the Saint had told him.
The joyful day approached. The Franciscans were called from many communities. The men and women of the neighborhood, as best they could, prepared candles and torches to brighten the night. Finally the Saint of God arrived, found everything prepared, saw it and rejoiced. The crib was made ready, hay was brought, the ox and ass were led to the spot and Greccio became a new Bethlehem. The night was radiant with joy. The crowds drew near and rejoiced in the novelty of the celebration. Their voices resounded from the woods, and the rocky cliff echoed the jubilant outburst. As they sang in the praise of God, the whole night rang with exultation. The Saint of God stood before the crib, overcome with devotion and wondrous joy. A solemn Mass was sung at the crib.
The Saint dressed in deacon’s vestments, for a deacon he was [out of humility, St. Francis never became a priest, remaining a deacon all his life]. He sang the Gospel. Then he preached a delightful sermon to the people who stood around him, speaking about the nativity of the poor King and the humble town of Bethlehem. (source: catholictradition.org)
I would love to share this story with baby Nate when he is old enough to understand why we celebrate Christmas. And how lovely and significant it is that we remember the Christ Child who is the reason for celebrating the season. Let it not be cloaked in grandeur but let it be as simple as the child in the manger.