The nativity scene is a familiar site to us at Christmas. This tradition was started by St. Francis of Assisi who was born into a weathy Italian family, but became a priest and eventually founded the Franciscans, a group intent on imitating the virtues of poverty, humility and simplicity.

 

St. Francis had a special devotion to the baby Jesus and received permission from Pope Honorious III to set up a manger scene in a cave with hay and two live animals, an ox and a donkey.  In 1223, on Christmas Eve, Francis preached to the villagers of Grecio Italy and invited them to look at the scene while he talked about the “babe of Bethlehem.”

 

The magic of the nativity scene took off from there. The intention of St. Francis was to show people a scene of holy poverty.  Today nativities can include a cast of thousands, even superheroes. It shows how all of us, no matter our status, long to share in the miracle of a King born in a cave.