The nativity scene is in houses, streets, churches, and squares. At this time of year, it acquires a presence that recalls the date, although little time is devoted to reflecting on its meaning, with people busy with the demands of consumption and duties typical of this celebration. And even if you don't think about it, the fact is if there are Christmas celebrations, there will be nativity scenes—the place of the nativity.
It is a Christian expression of the birth of Jesus. According to Luke 2, because of the census in Galilee Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem, and there, Jesus was born. After birth, Jesus was wrapped in cloth and laid in a manger; a place for feeding animals was now improvised as a crib. In addition to the boy's parents, there were animals and shepherds, guided by an angel, who went to that modest facility to see the miracle of the advent, which would bring hope to humanity.
The nativity scene communicates this story. And even though history doesn't confirm December 25 as the real date of the event, the nativity scenes are around as a reminder of a promise that was embodied in a Boy born in a place of such simplicity and love. “A boy is born to us, a son has been given to us, and the government is on his shoulders. And he shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). Kings from the east, guided by a star, brought gold, incense, and myrrh to this boy so imposing in the words of the prophet.
‘What gift would I have taken to the manger?’ I thought once. ‘What would I have placed beside the manger if I had been there?’ I think of many options and ways to materialize the personal feeling facing such an important event, as evidenced in the sacred text, until one day, I read an article that moved me, remembering the Boy in the manger is the same Boy who once said, “What you did to one of my younger brothers you did to me” (Matthew 25:40).
Good to the Boys and Girls Among Us
That Boy's younger brothers and sisters are among us, waiting for pleas to be answered, with wishes more urgent than the childish fantasy fueled by commerce at this time of year. They are waiting for the good we would do to the manger Boy. They are on the streets of Brazilian cities, in significant numbers—there are more than 70,000 children without a place to live, according to the humanitarian agency Vision Mundial.
These younger brothers and sisters of Jesus are orphans—orphans of the pandemic—children who have lost their parents to the coronavirus. More than 12,000 people lost their parents to COVID-19, according to a registry by the National Association of Registrars of Natural Persons (Arpen).
They are boys and girls challenged by a society of tiredness, which seems to naturalize anxiety and depression. And with such a short life span, many of these younger brothers and sisters of Jesus lose their sense of life at the age of seven.
They are those who, even so early in life, suffer violence, abandonment, hunger, and extreme poverty—refugees in times of war, punished by structures that insist on treating them with such cruelty.
“The good that is done to these little creatures is done to Me”: that's what the Boy in the manger said. Christmas is a time of reflection for the church—to assess what is being done and expand the possibilities of what can be done. The crib, then, will be a reminder of care. That will transform lives early on and allow a generation to grow up with a clear understanding of the compassion and love that come from the inspiration of that Boy in the manger.