Greccio is a small hillside town/village in Italy. It was there, at the Christmas Mass of 1223AD, 799 years ago, that St Francis of Assisi staged the first Nativity play, with actors and animals reliving the birth of the Christ-child at Bethlehem. St Francis later said, “I want to do something that will recall the memory of that child who was born in Bethlehem, to see with bodily eyes the inconveniences of his infancy, how he lay in the manger, and how the ox and ass stood by.”
It was from Greccio that our tradition of the Christmas crib comes. Perhaps you will be watching a Nativity play at your Christmas Mass, or you will visit the Christmas crib at your church? Perhaps you may even have a crib in your home? As you celebrate your Christmas, may you, like St Francis, be caught up in the wonder of the Christ-child, the eternal Son of God assuming our human flesh as a tiny and vulnerable baby. May you hold him close to your heart, and may your heart beat with his, until you are born to eternal life in him, for he is the Saviour born for us.
Have a blessed Christmas, and may 2023 be graced by the blessings of the Christ-child.
- Bishop Stephen Lowe