The Extraordinary in the Ordinary
By Sister Marcella Nachreiner
The Word became flesh, he lived among us, and we saw his glory, the glory that he has from the Father as only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth. – John 1:14
One Christmas Eve in 1223, Saint Francis gathered some of the poor people living outside the town of Grecio, to recall vividly the great event that had taken place on that night so many centuries before. Francis, the brothers, and the villagers cleared a cave-like spot in the mountains and built a manger scene. At midnight the figure of a child dressed in swaddling clothes was laid on some straw in the manger (crèche) while the breath of the nearby oxen, mules, and lambs warmed the child. Francis stood by the manger, his heart overflowing with love and compassion and preached to the people about the birth of the poor King whom he called the Babe of Bethlehem.
This moving ceremony, designed to raise the hearts of those weak in faith, clearly demonstrated Francis’ imagination and popularized the use of the crèche or Christmas crib.
The Christmas story Francis and the brothers re-enacted speaks of the extraordinary in the ordinary. The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us in a lowly cave in Bethlehem. This is the way God chose to enter history. He seeks to do this again and again.
How difficult it is to open our eyes and see God revealing Himself in our flaws, which often embarrass and discourage us! How difficult it is to open our ears to hear God in the voice of the hard of heart! How difficult it is to open our hands and find God in places that flow with the blood of violence. How difficult it is to accept that if we are to find God, we must find Him in places, events, and circumstances of life as it is, not as we want it to be. It is so difficult because it is so ordinary.
Nothing is irreverent or ungodly to those who know how to see. God is in the world now. He comes to life through us. Every moment we chose to let Him love us, He takes on our flesh. May the power of Christ’s birth penetrate our lives and move us to embody the truth that God is with us in every human, ordinary, experience between now and forever.
At Home Blessing of the Manger
From Catholic Household Blessings & Prayers
All make the sign of the cross as the leader says:
Our help is in the name of the Lord.
Response (R/.) Who made heaven and earth.
One of those present or the leader reads a text of sacred Scripture, for example, Luke 2:1(lines 1-8) or Isaiah 7:10 (lines 10-15, the birth of Emmanuel).
Reader: The Gospel of the Lord.
R/. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
The leader prays with hands joined:
God of every nation and people,
from the very beginning of creation
you have made manifest your love:
when our need for a Savior was great
you sent your Son to be born of the Virgin Mary.
To our lives he brings joy and peace,
justice, mercy, and love.
bless all who look upon this manger;
may it remind us of the humble birth of Jesus,
and raise our thoughts to him,
who is God-with-us and Savior of all,
and who lives and reigns forever and ever.