One of the great holiday traditions at Christmas time is gathering with family and friends to set up a Christmas Manger scene in our homes and churches. I remember as a child taking great care in placing the figures of Mary, Joseph, shepherds, magi and the baby Jesus in just the right places. Also there were various animals to place; sheep, ox, cows and camels. Once it all came together one could not help but to be a little moved by the warmth of that scene and what its meaning is.
For Christians the birth of Jesus is not only about bringing salvation to humankind but also about renewing the face of the earth. It is appropriate that our Christmas manger scenes include animals to signify that Jesus came to renew the entire creation and to bring about greater harmony between God, human beings and the whole created order. Perhaps it is not surprising that St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of ecology, is credited for establishing the tradition of the Christmas crèche in 1223. St. Francis had a great love for all creation and even wrote the beautiful “Canticle of the Sun” where he praises God for “brother sun and sister moon.” In this famous canticle, Francis encourages all creation to delight in God’s works as revealed in nature. His love of nature and the desire to see the whole created order exist in harmony not only encourages us to be thankful for the beauty of nature but also to love and care for it responsibly.
I believe that the Christian church is starting to take this responsibility more seriously. This year at the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada a new baptismal promise was added to the traditional baptismal covenant. Now all those being baptized into the church will be asked the following question: “Will you strive to safeguard the integrity of God’s creation, and respect, sustain and renew the life of the earth?” The candidate is encouraged to answer, “I will, with God’s help.”
During this Christmas season when we see a manger scene we can be reminded of the wonder of a child who came among us to make the whole creation new. Perhaps the greatest gift that we can give to God, ourselves and to each other is a commitment to “strive to safeguard the integrity of God’s creation, and respect, sustain and renew the life of the earth!” Let us do so with God’s help!
About this guest blogger:
The Rev. Canon Rob Fead has been a parish priest for twenty years after graduating with a Master of Divinity degree in 1993 from St. Peter’s Seminary in London, Ontario. Rob is the Rector of St. Jude’s Anglican Church in Oakville. The parish is actively involved in greening initiatives and was a recent recipient of a Greening Sacred Spaces Award.