The nativity crashes barriers of injustice

"The crèche is a rich source of material for reflection, and my appreciation for it deepens with every passing year."

We associate the nativity scene, or crèche, with Christmas; many churches and homes display a crèche during the Christmas season, and the traditional Christmas pageant concludes with a tableau of the nativity.  The message of the crèche, however, is not only for the holiday season; its message is for the entire year. The crèche speaks of justice, and invites people everywhere to break down the barriers that contribute to injustice.

Saint Francis of Assisi created the first crèche in 1223 when, in a niche on a rocky hillside, he set up a manger to which he brought an ox and an ass. People flocked to the makeshift stable. That first crèche helped people encounter the tender love of God made manifest in a baby.

From its original simplicity, the crèche evolved to include what is frequently an epic cast of characters more suitable for a Renaissance canvas than for most mantelpieces or church sanctuaries.  It is not unusual for a crèche to have figurines of Mary, Joseph and the baby in a manger, shepherds and their sheep, magi and their camels and gifts, an ox, an ass and an imaginative assortment of other animals.

The more elaborate representations of the crèche blend the two versions of the birth of Jesus that are recounted in the New Testament. In Luke’s Gospel, shepherds hurry from the hills to find the baby in a manger. In Matthew’s Gospel, magi from the East find the child sometime later. Neither Gospel places the shepherds and magi together at the stable, nor mentions any animals, not even the legendary ass that carried the pregnant Mary to Bethlehem.

The crèche is a rich source of material for reflection, and my appreciation for it deepens with every passing year.  When I was a child, the crèche was a welcome distraction during a long Christmas Mass that, in my childhood estimation, interfered with the festivities under the tree. In the crèche today, I see a theology of justice.

The figures of the crèche –Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and the magi – do not have much in common. They are from different cultural, socio-economic and religious backgrounds.  While under ordinary circumstances they may have been wary of one another, the baby in the manger unites them. Before the manger, the categories that frequently separate and divide people – race, culture, creed and wealth – dissipate.  The crèche directs attention to the dignity of every individual, and presents a vision of human interactions that are devoid of bias, prejudice, greed and hatred.

Although the crèche artistically portrays a first century story of the birth of a savior, and is specific to a particular set of religious beliefs, the message of the crèche is for everyone, and for all times.  The crèche holds a message that transcends its usefulness as a seasonal decoration to adorn mantles and church sanctuaries. The message of the crèche can touch our hearts, and inspire us towards more loving and just relationships.  The crèche invites everyone to participate in creating a world where the goodwill, peace and joy of Christmas take root and flourish all year long.

Trail resident Louise McEwan is a catechist and former teacher, with degrees in English and Theology. She writes every other week. She blogs at www.faithcolouredglasses.blogspot.com. Reach her at mcewan.lou@gmail.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Early steals opened the door for Team Nichol in a victory over Team Small on Thursday at Kootenay Savings Super League curling. Photo: Jim Bailey.
Super League Curling: van Yzerloo-Fines match goes down to wire

Kootenay Savings Super League goes every Thursday night at the Trail Curling Club

Glacier Gymnastics head coach Sandra Long says she doesn’t understand why her sport is currently shut down while others are allowed to operate. Photo: Tyler Harper
‘It is bewildering’: Nelson sports leaders call out provincial shut down

Indoor group classes for activities such as gymnastics and dance are on hold

Quaid Anderson
Former Nitehawk makes himself at home with BCHL Bucks

Former Nitehawk Quaid Anderson is glad to return home to Cranbrook and chance to play in BCHL

A man wearing a face mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19 walks past a mural in Vancouver on Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
212 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health over the weekend

A total of 490 cases remain active; 15 in hospital

Photo:  Black Press Media
Greater Trail RCMP urge locals to stay off the roads

By noon there were four commercial tractor trailers stuck on hills in the Trail area

Seven Deers carved Shinning Raven Woman out of Labradorite harvested from the Canadian Shield. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Sculpture by Indigenous artist to be erected in Grand Forks

Civic leaders have rallied behind the project by Grand Forks’ David Seven Deers

Fossil finds at Mt. Stephen. (Photo: Sarah Fuller/Parks Canada)
Extreme hiking, time travel and science converge in the Burgess Shale

Climb high in the alpine and trace your family tree back millions of years – to our ocean ancestors

Kettle bells sit aligned in an indoor fitness studio. (PIxabay.com)
1 COVID-19 case at a B.C. fitness studio leads to 104 more infections, 6 school exposures

According to case data released by Fraser Health, one case of the novel coronavirus carries a big impact

Vehicles drive past a display thanking essential workers in Burnaby, B.C. on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
B.C. changing COVID-19 case reporting as virus spread continues

Manual counting takes more time, leads to errors

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Mask fundraiser helps make children’s wishes come true

From Black Press Media + BraveFace – adult, youth and kid masks support Make-A-Wish Foundation

Christy Jordan-Fenton is the co-author of the book Fatty Legs, which has been mentioned amid the controversy of an Abbotsford school assignment on residential schools.
Co-author of residential schools book condemns controversial Abbotsford class assignment

Children’s book mentioned amid controversy at W. A. Fraser Middle School

Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka takes over as energy and mines critic for the B.C. Liberal opposition. Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick (right) moves from health critic to assistant deputy speaker. (Hansard TV)
B.C. Liberals pick critics to take on Horgan’s NDP majority

Interim leader Shirley Bond takes seniors, long-term care

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland listens to a question from a reporter on the phone during a news conference in Ottawa, Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Spending too little worse than spending too much, Freeland says as Canada’s deficit tops $381B

‘The risk of providing too little support now outweighs that of providing too much’

Still from a video surveillance camera of a man alleged to have stolen from several people at knife-point in Chilliwack (Rosedale) early on Nov. 28, 2020. (Facebook)
B.C. man defends his family against intruder, saves neighbour while wielding hockey stick

RCMP looking for footage that captures violent crime spree in Chilliwack

Most Read