I love the Christmas creche in all its forms. I took this photo in a shop in Williamsburg, Virginia last year. It’s amazing, a true work of art. All handmade! If you have a creche, you might consider a blessing.

It’s not too late as we are right now, today, within the Octave of Christmas. I heard once, and really like, the explanation that Christmas and Easter are just too big to celebrate on just one day. Both days get an octave, 8 days to themselves. So Catholics continue the commemoration of the birth of Christ for 8 days which ends on the feast day of Mother Mary, without whom there would be no Jesus!  We have, in my faith tradition, just begun the Christmas Season. And that is a beautiful thing, but also a difficult thing to honor in our modern age. We are definitely ‘swimming upstream’ in trying to celebrate the Holy Birth of our Savior for 8 days beginning on Christmas Day. The rest of the culture is back to regular tunes on the radio and no one is talking about Jesus in the manger anymore. But it does seem to me that the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Alpha and the Omega, deserves more than one day to observe His birth.

While Christmas Eve, or the “vigil of Christmas” as it’s known in some circles, is the suggested time to bless the creche, given that we’re within the octave, there’s still time! (In fact, you could keep the nativity scene up until  Three Kings’ Day or Epiphany, which is days away, the Twelfth Day of Christmas. Maybe you’ve heard of it?) I love to contemplate that scene where Jesus is lying in a manger, surrounded by barn animals, his mother and foster father gazing down on his little figure, along with shepherds who’ve been alerted by a host of angels of the Savior’s arrival, and wisemen who actually didn’t show up for about a year after Jesus’s birth, but nevertheless are often depicted in this scene, And there is always at least one angel standing guard. Though I’m pretty sure that the “host” of angels who appeared to the shepherds in the fields were all present for the big kick off for the culmination of humanity’s salvation story that is Christ’s life, passion, death, and resurrection.

The following is taken from the US Council of Catholic Bishops’ website:

“In its present form the custom of displaying figures depicting the birth of Jesus Christ owes its origin to St. Francis of Assisi, who made the Christmas crèche or manger for Christmas Eve of 1223.

The blessing of the Christmas manger or nativity scene may take place on the Vigil
of Christmas or at another suitable time.

When the manger is set up in the home, it is appropriate that it be blessed by a
parent or another family member.

All make the sign of the cross as the leader says:

Our help is in the name of the Lord.
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.
R/. Amen.”

—From Catholic Household Blessings & Prayers

One thought on “Away in a manger; celebrating the Octave of Christmas

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