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God communicates with us constantly. Every once in a while, he uses words.
That’s what true love does: It demonstrates love more than it talks about it. So, to know how God feels about you, you only have to look.
That’s what Psalm 19 says: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament proclaims the work of his hands.” And that’s what the Letter to the Hebrews says too: “in these last days, he spoke to us through a son.”
This is why we love the creche so much at Christmas: It quietly says so much about who God is. What does it say?
First, it tells us God is willing to be vulnerable for us.
The world is excited by the Marvel Cinematic Universe, where superheroes fight to save worlds by wielding heavy hammers, indestructible shields, and superhuman strength. But if you think back on the moments you most felt loved by those who are devoted to you, it isn’t usually strength you think of.
It’s the time you were sick and someone spent time by your side — or it’s the time your beloved was weak and told you how much you have meant to them.
That’s what God is doing in Jesus Christ. He is almighty God, who is able to do greater deeds than any superhero — he is able to create and destroy and command. But at Christmas, he does the thing we least expect him to do: He becomes a baby to love us and to be loved.
Second, the creche tells us God makes us strong by accompanying us.
Parents spend decades preparing their children to be able to go out on their own. Schools exist to give us the abilities we need after graduation, which we call our “commencement” or “beginning.”
It’s always the same in the world: Training and preparation so that we can face the world’s problems with as little help as possible.
That’s not how it is with God. He doesn’t equip us with ways to be independent from him, but with ways to depend on him: The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are ways to see with his vision, be brave with his fortitude, and walk at his side, and Jesus in the manger isn’t “God who watches over us,” he is Emmanuel, “God with us.”
Third, the creche tells us that God connects us to our family.
Marshall McLuhan said “The medium is the message” — the very form you use to communicate tells the recipient something: A phone call says “I want to spend time with you;” a text says “I don’t.” St. John Paul II took this to the next level when his theology of the body says that our very bodies tell us that we were meant for each other — meant to unite as wives and husbands who naturally bring forth children.
The way God spoke to us through his son is a message too, unmistakable in the creche: God loves families.
Even though he wasn’t conceived in the usual way, he wanted to be the center of a family. He wanted a mother and father. More than that: He wants to adopt us into his family.
“Only when Christ is formed in us will the mystery of Christmas be fulfilled in us,” says the Catechism. “We have been made sharers in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share our humanity.”
Fourth, the creche tells us that God connects us to each other.
But God isn’t just with us each, alone. The prophets were the height of Old Testament greatness — God’s voices in the world — and the greatest prophet was John the Baptist, who saw what the others predicted.
“Yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he,” Jesus said, because we have something he didn’t have: the Church. You see the Church begins to form in Christ’s infancy, with the family in the center, then the shepherds, followed by the magi, the wisest of the Gentiles, then Simeon and Anna in the Temple.
Today we find the same groups of people in the Church: Mothers, fathers, daughters and sons; laborers and officials, lay people and consecrated. People who would never otherwise spend time together gather around Jesus every week.
Which is to say, Christmas does what the Eucharist does, and vice versa.
In this year of the Eucharistic revival we can look at everything Jesus does in the manger and see the same thing in the Host that becomes his body and blood: God is willing to be vulnerable for us, he wants to make us strong by accompanying us, he wants to nourish our families and gather us into a community.
So, if you want to know God’s message for your life, look and listen: at the tabernacle, at the altar, and the creche.