Christmas Cribs beautifully remind us that God so loved the world He sent His Son, born of Mary. Some are suggesting, even as I write, that the traumatic wickedness of this year would make light-heart Christmas joy a complete charade!
This couldn’t be so! Jesus did not come into the word to create a pretext for party-time! Joseph, who was to assume the role of the father of Jesus, was made to know that this would be very serious business. The Angel Gabriel instructed him, ‘you must name Him Jesus, because He is the one who is to save His people from their sins.' (Mt.1.21)
In the crib we are to look for and find, the ‘Face of Jesus,’ which is the ‘Face of God,’ which is the ‘Face of Mercy.’ God would have us know that the greatest of all mercies is surely the forgiveness of sins. By sending His Son to us God is stating clearly He wants to forgive those want to be forgiven. And He would want to bring all of to the point of this being our deepest desire.
This salvation would come about through Mary’s child, Jesus, many years later dying on the cross and rising from the dead.
This urgent need for mercy – the forgiveness of sin – first arose from that moment when the Original Parents (Adam and Eve) chose ‘going it alone’ as their kind of life, rather than live under the Lordship of God, their Creator.
This! After He had granted them the supreme privilege of being His intimate friends! He had even drawn them into the beauty of His own divine holiness. What is more, this precious gift was to be passed down to all their descendants until the end of time. This glorious heritage was forfeited by their one bad choice.
Rather than say, ‘Finished with the lot of you!’ God decided upon a Salvation History that would eventually climax in this avalanche of merciful love, ‘When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman,’ (Gal, 4.4). The Angel Gabriel would tell Mary, a young woman of Nazareth, The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God,’ (Lk. 1.15).
Mary, being thus favoured to be Mother of God, simply had to be clothed in that beauty of untarnished holiness that Adam and Eve had enjoyed before they dragged themselves and their descendants down into the wretched state of being estranged from God. And so God caused an elderly couple, Joachim and Ann, to conceived a child, Mary, who would never, ever, be contaminated by sin. The Immaculate Conception of Mary!
Now think of the crib, if possible look at a crib, and there recognize the beauty of Divine Mercy – in the preservation of Mother Mary from all sin; Divine mercy in the very Son of God taking flesh, dwelling among us, and out of mercy dying for us, rising for – for our salvation.
As I reflect on the sublime peacefulness of the Nativity Scene I feel the urgent need for God’s mercy…immediately! In these days of excessive terrorism, of thousands upon thousands of fright-filled-families taking flight from their homelands, of so much heartless domestic cruelty, it is surely most fitting that we chant,
“For the sake of the Sacred Passion,have mercy on us and on the whole world,”
as well as recite the ancient ‘Jesus Prayer,’
"O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner have mercy on all of us sinners, !"
The Jubilee Year of Mercy commences on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception; the Advent Season leads towards the celebration of the birth of the One whose name means ‘Saviour.’
I’ve just prayed before my simple crib, “Jesus, in your mercy rescue the world from the madness of its badness!”
I wish you all a peace-filled, blessed Christmas.
Peter Clarke, O.P.