Over the weekend, Pope Francis hailed Nativity scenes as “simple and admirable” signs of the Christian faith, encouraging them to be placed in schools, workplaces, and town squares.
“With this letter, I wish to encourage the beautiful family tradition of preparing the Nativity scene in the days before Christmas, but also the custom of setting it up in the workplace, in schools, hospitals, prisons and town squares,” the pope wrote in a letter, which was first read to believers standing outside a small church in Greccio, the Associated Press reported.
The letter continued:
Great imagination and creativity are always shown in employing the most diverse materials to create small masterpieces of beauty. As children, we learn from our parents and grandparents to carry on this joyful tradition, which encapsulates a wealth of popular piety.
It is my hope that this custom will never be lost and that, wherever it has fallen into disuse, it can be rediscovered and revived.
The pontiff’s letter was signed in Greccio, where the first manger crèche was erected in 1223 by St. Francis of Assisi. In addition to pointing people to Jesus’ birth, Francis said the Nativity also serves as a reminder that the poor and marginalized — like Jesus, who was born in a lowly stable — play a “privileged part” in Christendom.
“By being born in a manger, God himself launches the only true revolution that can give hope and dignity to the disinherited and the outcast: the revolution of love, the revolution of tenderness,” wrote the pope. “From the manger, Jesus proclaims, in a meek yet powerful way, the need for sharing with the poor as the path to a more human and fraternal world in which no one is excluded or marginalized.”
“The Creator of the universe lowered himself to take up our littleness,” his message continued. “The gift of life, in all its mystery, becomes all the more wondrous as we realize that the Son of Mary is the source and sustenance of all life.”
The pope’s letter comes as Nativity scenes on display in the U.S. have over the years triggered a series of legal battles over the separation of church and state. One recent case of a manger crèche in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and has been the subject of much debate since last December.
Pope Francis is also urging people to quell their own propensities toward consumerism this Christmas season, according to Reuters.
The religious leader went on to describe materialism and consumerism as “a virus that corrodes faith” and causes people to forget “the brother who knocks at your door,” referring to the needy.
“When you live for things, things are never enough, greed grows, other people become obstacles in a race,” he said during his homily at Sunday Mass, decrying the fact that, in many places around the world, “consumerism reigns supreme.”
Francis went on to urge people to “resist the blinding lights of consumerism, which will shine everywhere this month.”