December 1223, Greccio, Italy. A man living in poverty lamented that his town’s observance of Christmas had become overshadowed by materialism. He gathered friends, along with some livestock, and re-created the scene at the manger. It was a moving experience for many people. The man was St. Francis of Assisi, and the practice—which every parish around the world has since adopted—was the nativity scene.
Many years later, a priest in France was so full of joy at the sight of a nativity scene that he found his heart his heart melted. Then, moved by the Holy Spirit, he wrote a homily that described describing three acts of humility that were at the heart of this great feast.
The first act of humility was God’s plan for his Son to take on our human nature and become a man like us in all things but sin. The second act of humility was Jesus coming to us as a helpless baby entrusted to the care of two human beings. The third act of humility was God’s decision to have his Son born into poverty.
That priest was St. John Vianney, the patron of all priests.
As we celebrate Christmas, let’s follow the example of these two great saints. Let’s fix our eyes on the baby Jesus and make him the first priority of our day. Let’s carve out some private time with him in prayer before all the celebrations begin. Maybe you can even pray with the family.
And let’s contemplate God’s humility and his magnificent plan for us—a plan that was grounded in what is unquestionably the most dramatic act of humility ever.