“The manger scene we make at home, where we share food and affections, reminds us that Jesus is the essential nourishment, the bread of life,” he said.
“It is He who feeds our love, it is He who gives our families the strength to continue on and to forgive each other.”
The pope quoted from his Dec. 1 apostolic letter Admirabile signum, saying “the nativity, in fact, ‘is like a living Gospel,’” and urging everyone to have nativities at their homes, schools, workplaces, hospitals, nursing homes, prisons, and town squares.
A nativity points to the essential: that God became man, he said.
He explained that “setting up a nativity scene is celebrating the closeness of God: God is always close to his people, but he was really close, very close, extremely close” at his birth at Christmas.
Noting that Christmas is just one week away, Francis also encouraged Catholics, in the midst of running around to complete the final preparations, to ask themselves: “How am I preparing for the birth of the celebration?”
Setting up a manger scene is “a simple but effective way to prepare,” he advised. “In today’s frenetic rhythms it is an invitation to contemplation. It reminds us of the importance of stopping.”
The pope also emphasized the tenderness of God as exhibited in a nativity; it shows God not as “distant lord or a detached judge,” he said, but as “humble Love, descended to us.”
He also recalled how some figures of the baby Jesus, called “Bambinelli” in Italian, have open arms, illustrating “that God has come to embrace our humanity.”
Speak to the Lord in the nativity scene, telling him about your cares and concerns, expectations, and the year which has passed, he urged.