July 25, 2024
News Nigeria

The Essence of the Christmas Crib

By Rachel Kogi

Christmas celebration is yearly characterised by the display of Christmas cribs in Churches, homes, shopping malls and other venues. It is so common a feature that it cannot be wrong to say that Christmas celebrations are not complete without a Christmas Crib. Do you usually visit the crib? Have you ever stopped to reflect on the essence of the crib?

A Christmas Crib or Nativity scene takes its bearing from the accounts of the birth of Jesus in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Also known as a nativity scene, a manger scene, crib or crรจche, it is the special exhibition, particularly during Christmas season, of art objects representing the birth of Jesus.

The earliest uses of a crib in worship dates back to fourth-century Rome. Of the three masses observed at Christmas at the time, one was called AdPraesepe, meaning “to the crib”. This mass took place in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, at a shrine built from boards believed to have come from the original stable of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

St. Francis of Assisi is credited with creating the first live nativity scene in 1223, with the aim of cultivating the worship of Christ. Staged in a cave near Greccio, St. Francis of Assisi’s nativity scene was a living one with humans and animals cast in the Biblical roles. Pope Honorius III gave his blessing to the exhibit. The popularity of the Greccio nativity scene inspired communities throughout Catholic countries to stage similar pantomimes.

Over time, nativity scenes or Christmas Cribs have become popular throughout the Catholic Church all over the world as part of Christmas celebrations. They are usually taken down on the twelfth night after Christmas day, around January 5 or 6.

The Christmas Crib represents how Jesus was born, and exhibits the figures that represent infant Jesus, his mother, Mary and her husband, Joseph. Other characters from the Nativity story, such as shepherds, sheep and angels may be displayed near the manger in a barn (or cave) intended to accommodate farm animals, as described in the Gospel of Luke. A donkey and an ox are typically depicted in the scene, and the Magi and their camels, described in the Gospel of Matthew, are also included.

The essence of the Christmas Crib is to recreate all that happened in Bethlehem at the time of Christ’s birth. It gives a feeling of being present at the time of birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. The birth of Jesus is one of the most significant events of Christianity. It is the cradle of Christianity because, it gave life to other significant events in Christianity. Without the birth of Jesus, there would never have been his baptism. Even the Eucharist, which is the summit of the Catholic faith would not have been instituted. Why would we not therefore, replay such a scene at every given opportunity?

The Christmas Crib enhances our worship during Christmas celebration and delights onlookers with a beautiful representation of Christ’s birth. Having a real display of the Bethlehem scene reawakens our hearts to deeper worship for the Trinity God.

Currently, Nigeria as a country is undergoing a dark moment bedevilled by insecurities, corruption and the effects of the Covid pandemic. Leadership failure has further exacerbated the the situation. The Christmas Crib reminds us at such a time of dark moments as being experienced in Nigeria today, marked by tension, unrest and gloom, that just as God surprised us with the gift of his dear son, Jesus Christ, he can still come to our aid.

The Nativity scenes thus build our faith and hope in God, not withstanding the difficulties and trials of our times. It reminds us that at the appointed time, God will surely come, save us, and smile at us with the face of the Child Jesus born at Bethlehem on Christmas day, following the long awaited promise.

If in time past you never cared to visit the Christmas Crib, or you paid casual visits, probably because you did not understand its essence, this is a chance to make amends. Visit the Christmas Crib this time with humility, gratitude, joy and sacrifice. Imagine yourself in Bethlehem on that fateful night. How would you have reacted to the message of the angels about the birth of the Messiah? What gifts would you have presented? Present the best gifts at the Christmas Crib this year.

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