We are about to enter our second of only four weeks of Advent. Do you feel spiritually ready for celebrating Jesus’ birth? God, in His infinite wisdom, love, and humility, became a human being …. for us! Jesus did not just appear on earth fully grown one day; rather he was born a baby, helpless & vulnerable, and ended up going through the trials and tribulations of being human. He did not have to do this, but He chose to. We celebrate this great act of love on Christmas. We prepare our hearts to celebrate His coming during the season of Advent.
Advent is a gift to us because this fact of God’s radical love is a lot to absorb. The four weeks of the Advent season exist to help us prepare, contemplate, and understand the great reality of God becoming man for our sakes because of His great love for each of us. Our goal for this devotional and joyous Advent season is to be able to worship the Lord well and be transformed. I have written many articles over the years encouraging various practices during Advent in order for this to happen. I have suggested that we carve out time for going to the sacrament of reconciliation, that we pray more, and that we use an Advent wreath.
This year, I am still inviting you to do those things, but also to LIVE the nativity. St. Francis of Assisi is credited with creating the first live nativity scene in 1223 to cultivate the worship of Christ. He himself had recently been inspired by his visit to the Holy Land, where he’d been shown Jesus’s birthplace. His event was very popular and inspired communities throughout Christian countries to stage similar exhibitions. To this day, thousands of tourists travel to Greccio annually for the live Nativity put on by locals and to visit nearby Franciscan shrines. Pope Francis even made a surprise visit there in 2016. Two years earlier, the pope visited a live Nativity at the Church of St. Alfonso Maria dei Liguori on the outskirts of Rome that featured 200 costumed participants, numerous farm animals and a live baby in the role of Jesus.
This weekend at the Mother Church, the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament is inviting you to enter into Advent in a fresh way by “living” the nativity. On December 4, after the 11 AM Mass, people of all ages and faiths are invited to prepare their hearts to celebrate the Lord’s coming — to experience what He has already done and is now asking us to do to make His presence known today. Like St. Francis’ nativity, there will be live animals and costumes. There will be free food and drinks, singing, reverencing of the St. Joseph relic and a few souvenirs to help you to contemplate, understand, and “prepare Him room” in your hearts and homes. In the spirit of our local Franciscan, Blessed Solanus, I thank all the many folks who have helped to create this experience and thank God ahead of time for the transformation of our hearts that will occur! I hope to see you there!