I try to imagine what it was like to be there on that night more than 2,000 years ago. What was it like for the shepherds, the Holy Family gathered around the manger and, later, the Magi when they finally arrived at their destination and saw the Blessed Mother and her baby?
The Christ Child is the source of light in the painting. The edges of the scene are nearly in darkness reminiscent of John’s Gospel: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
A Nativity scene is a simple reminder of something astonishing: God became human to reveal the greatness of his love “by smiling and opening his arms to all,” Pope Francis said in a letter on the meaning and importance of setting up Christmas cribs.
The Nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square is not getting rave reviews: The backdrop does not look like a stable and the characters in need — hungry, naked, dead, imprisoned — don’t exactly evoke a silent night when all was cozy, calm and bright.