“Advent is the season of the secret, the secret of the growth of Christ, of Divine Love growing in silence. It is the season of humility, silence, and growth. For nine months Christ grew in his mother’s body. By his own will, she formed him from herself, from the simplicity of her daily life.”–Caryll Houselander, woodcarver and mystic
“Hannah, his mother, approached Eli and said: ‘Pardon, my lord! As you live my lord, I am the woman who stood near you here, praying to the LORD. I prayed for this child, and the LORD granted my request. Now I, in turn, give him to the LORD; as long as he lives, he shall be dedicated to the LORD.’ She left him there.”—1 Samuel 1:26-28
A classic Chasidic story says that when the rabbi of Kotzker was asked, “Where is the place of the Messiah’s glory?” he replied, “Wherever we give Him room, wherever we make space for Him.” Where is the tender place in you where the Messiah will come to birth?
The Christmas crèche is a tangible reminder for us to make room for the Christ Child. The tradition dates back to St. Francis of Assisi. As the story goes, on Christmas Eve in 1293, Francis gathered with friars and townsfolk in the woods on Mt. Subasio. There, under the canopy of flowering ash and downy oak, was laid a trough filled with hay. Oxen and a donkey were tied to a tree. In his delight at the sight of Bethlehem in his own little corner of the Umbrian hills, Francis danced in praise and sang the gospel.
When the impromptu mass was over, Francis went to the crib and stretched out his arms as if to hold the infant Jesus. And for a moment, so the story is told, the Christ Child appeared. The empty manger was filled with a radiant light.
Remember to set an extra place for the unexpected guest at your Christmas meal.
“O Dayspring, Brightness of the everlasting light, Son of justice, come to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death!”
Breathe in. Breathe out. Ad…..vent.
With gratitude to Pax Christi USA where some of these reflections first appeared in print.