After witnessing a touching encounter between some young children and the Infant Jesus in the manger, Fr Kevin Fleming suggests parishes should make their Christmas Crib as accessible as possible.
Last year I spent Christmas in my hometown of Ferbane, Co Offaly with my brother and his wife. Spending Christmas in the village you grew up in has a special feeling to it. On St Steven’s Day I visited the Crib in the local parish church..
The Crib was a lovely oval dark-shaped composition situated near the altar steps. I paid my respects and then went back a few kneelers and sat down for a while to reflect on the great mystery of Christmas. While I was there a few people came in and prayed before the Crib, they also lit a candle or two and went their way.
Then a couple came in with three little girls, presumably their daughters. They came before the Crib and bowed. The three little girls knelt down on the step before the Crib. One of the little girls picked up the figure of the Infant Jesus gave it a little hug and passed it along to her sisters who each gave the Infant Jesus a hug and then they laid the figure back in the Crib.
I thought it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen at Christmas. This is Christmas: Jesus came to love and be loved, I reflected.
The Crib has a real liturgical meaning during the Christmas season. Though it is only a replica of the stable in which God was born into this world as a human child, the Crib is an attempt to bring that profound moment of history into the present moment.
This symbolic replica is a way of drawing us closer to that profound moment of Jesus’ birth. The Crib has a power to draw us in and uplift us. It differs from the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist where He is seen and worshipped through the eyes of Faith.
In light of its potential impact parishes should try to have their Crib with the Holy Family in as accessible a place as possible – don’t hide it away or keep it in a place that is difficult for people and particularly children to give a little hug to the Infant Jesus. After all God became a human being so that He could come closer to us and share life with us.
Fr Kevin Fleming was ordained in 1963. He served on mission in Korea and also did Vocation promotion work in the US. He now lives in Dalgan.
Published in the December 2023 issue of the Far East magazine. Please subscribe and support our missionaries. Just €10 a year for a digital subscription and €20 for print. See: https://columbans.ie/far-east-magazine/