According to friend Gerry Bowler (that’s Prof. Gerald Q. Bowler, PhD [London] to you, bub) in his masterful Encyclopedia of Christmas—which, of course, you have at hand at this time of year, don’t you?—it was Francis of Assisi who first decided to bring the main characters of the Matthean and Lucan nativity stories together in one place. He gave us the first crèche.
Among the wonders of this juxtaposition is this: the wide, wide scope of God’s love, a scope that embraces all of creation as we know it.
For who is here?
An older person, Joseph, a younger person, Mary, and a baby, Jesus.
Rich people, the magi, and poor people, the Holy Family and the shepherds.
Socially impressive people, the “wise men” who can get an audience with Herod himself, and socially dubious people: the unmarried couple with child, and the borderline-criminal (!) shepherds.
Jews and Gentiles are here, in common worship. So are both men and women. Humans reside with animals. It’s a peaceable kingdom in miniature.
Even angels appear and announce and sing.
Even a star participates.
All of creation gathers, therefore, in Francis’s “composite photograph” of Jesus’s nativity. No one is absent, no one is left out.
Everyone is not only welcome, furthermore, but actually invited by God to be there, and given something worthwhile to do in God’s generous economy.
Joy, then, indeed, to the cosmos: the Lord who made it all, who sustains it all, who saves it all, is come! Let earth—not only the human oikoumene, but the whole world—receive her King . . . and heaven and nature sing.
And heaven and nature sing.