Step #1: Lectio / Read
Click the link below or open your Bible to the passage and read through the reading at least once, paying attention to what is happening in the text.
Step #2: Meditatio / Meditate
Use the following meditation to help you reflect more deeply on the Scripture (you may want to read the passage again).
St. Francis of Assisi, probably the most popular saint of all in the Christian tradition, was the one who popularized the devotion of having a manger scene.
It is said that, after Francis visited Bethlehem and saw the place of Christ's birth, he said:
“I want to do something that will recall the memory of that Child who was born in Bethlehem, to see with bodily eyes the inconveniences of his infancy, how he lay in the manger, and how the ox and ass stood by.”
And so, as St. Bonaventure tells us:
“It happened in the third year before his death, that in order to excite the inhabitants of Grecio to commemorate the nativity of the Infant Jesus with great devotion, [St. Francis] determined to keep it with all possible solemnity; and lest he should be accused of lightness or novelty, he asked and obtained the permission of the sovereign Pontiff. Then he prepared a manger, and brought hay, and an ox and an ass to the place appointed.
The brethren were summoned, the people ran together, the forest resounded with their voices, and that venerable night was made glorious by many and brilliant lights and sonorous psalms of praise.”
Of course, this thing that Francis did in the 13th century resounds to this day, as manger scenes are everywhere this time of year. How often do you and I truly pause in front of the manger scene and think about how magnificent, how amazing, how truly life and world-changing that scene is?
The God-man has become like us in all things but sin on that quiet night 2,000 years ago. For all of us who, through sin and death and trial, have experienced (often profound) darkness in our lives, light has blazed forth. No longer are you and I stuck in darkness, but we have seen light! And each year, to commemorate the coming of that light, we prepare with Advent, we decorate our homes, and we put out a manger scene.
This year, like Francis all those years ago, let's not let this celebration tonight, tomorrow, and through the Christmas season pass us by. Rather, let's pause in front of the manger. Let's look at the baby Jesus, and in front of that baby let us see our Salvation, our light, our hope as He is truly present. And may we be filled with joy.
May our experience of the commemoration of our Lord's birth be for us like it was for St. Francis, standing in front of that manger, as told by St. Bonaventure:
“The man of God [St. Francis] stood before the manger, full of devotion and piety, bathed in tears and radiant with joy; the Holy Gospel was chanted by Francis, the Levite of Christ. Then he preached to the people around the nativity of the poor King; and being unable to utter His name for the tenderness of His love, He called Him the Babe of Bethlehem.”
Enjoy your Christmas celebrations, brothers and sisters, and may you and I see in the Babe of Bethlehem the true light for all people.
Step #3: Oratio / Pray
These questions are to be used to talk to God; have a conversation with the Lord about these questions and what is going on in your heart as you pray today.
How am I prepared to enter into Christmas?
Is Jesus a novelty to me or the God made man, humble as a child in a manger?
In what ways can I enter into the mystery of the Nativity more this Christmas season?
Step #4: Contemplatio / Contemplate
In this step, you listen. Stop talking, let God speak to your heart. You may repeat one of these short phrases to focus your mind on the Lord.
"You are my God."
"Help me live in your light."
"Thank you for loving me."
Step #5: Actio / Act
In light of today's reading and your time spent in prayer with the Lord, what concrete action or actions will you take to let this encounter with the Lord bear fruit in you today?
Spend time in the presence of a Nativity scene today. Whether you have one at home or if you can make it to your church to see theirs, be silent and still and ask the Lord to help you see him the way St. Francis did so many years ago.
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Today's prayer was prepared by Jason Theobald, Executive Director of Carpe Verbum.
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