For publication on Sunday, Dec. 25. Nativity scenes are ubiquitous and beloved parts of the celebration of Christmas, not just in churches but in private homes and sometimes businesses. The representation of Christ’s birth reminds us what Christmas is most truly about. But the next time you see a lovely crèche, remember to thank St. Francis of Assisi, who arranged the very first Nativity scene in the year 1223 A.D.
St. Francis was a saint particularly renowned for his humility and childlike faith. He was never ordained a priest, believing himself to be unworthy, and yet he had a major impact on history for the better — including through his religious order, the Franciscans. According to St. Bonaventure and the Catholic Company, St. Francis came up with the idea of presenting a Nativity scene to Italians in 1223 after returning from a journey to the Holy Land. While there, he had seen the spot in Bethlehem where Christ was born.
After receiving permission from the pope to go ahead with his idea, St. Francis excitedly prepared the Nativity scene that he hoped would make the first Christmas come alive for the locals. St. Francis of Assisi even brought a live ox and donkey to the manger to make the scene as realistic as possible.
Jesus must have been pleased with St. Francis’s joyful faith and passionate love, because it is said He miraculously appeared as a baby in the empty manger, to make Francis’s Nativity scene as much like the first Christmas as possible
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