While Lent and Holy Week often focus on the immense suffering Jesus endured for our sake, the seasons of Advent and Christmas present the perfect opportunity to focus on humility and poverty.
This comes alive most especially when we sit and meditate on the humble scene of Jesus’ birth. Often modern Nativity scenes don’t communicate this central truth strongly enough, as the constructed stable can look almost cozy and warm, instead of what was likely the cold, messy and brutal reality behind it all.
A meditation found in a 19th-century prayer book on the Child Jesus highlights this profound mystery.
It is midnight. The winter air is cold and chill. See a comfortless stable, partly shed and partly cave, hollowed in the side of a rock. A poor place indeed. The keen breeze finds its way in freely. In that stable lies a BABE. His only cradle is a manger from which cattle feed. He lies there on the rough straw — a new-born Babe. His little limbs are wrapped around with swathing bands like the babes of the poorest.
Sit with that scene for a few minutes. Think about the poverty of it all and how uncomfortable it must have been! Being in a modern hospital room isn’t all that great, but just think of what it was like giving birth in such circumstances.
The scene should move us to ask God for the gift of humility and to examine our own lives, asking ourselves if our modern comforts hold any influence over our spiritual lives.
Here is a short prayer that comes after the above meditation, asking God to fill us with a greater sense of humility.
Jesus, I thank Thee for coming thus. Great God, how Thou hast humbled Thyself! It seems too much, too wonderful, but I know that it is true.Nothing is too wonderful for Thy great, Thy everlasting love.For love of Thee I will be humble. Take away my pride and my self-will.Mary, I thank thee and bless thee for loving God so nobly, so purely, so humbly, that He gave His dear Son to us through thee. Pray to that Son, that I may have grace to learn of Him and thee to be meek and humble of heart.Joseph, Foster-father of Jesus, the Heart of that holy Child beats for me. Mary is my Mother; pray for me that I may be truly humble and belong to this Holy Family, now, and at the hour of my death, and for evermore.
St. Vincent de Paul on how gratitude can lead to humility
Pope Francis explains the symbolism of each figure in the Nativity scene