What better way to prepare for the arrival of the Christ Child than to take a brief journey
to Greccio, the spot in central Italy where St. Francis of Assisi created the first Christmas crib
in the year 1223.
Francis, recalling a visit he had made years before to Bethlehem, resolved to create the
manger he had seen there. The ideal spot was a cave in nearby Greccio. He would find a baby (we’re
not sure if it was a live infant or the carved image of a baby), hay upon which to lay him, an ox
and an ass to stand beside the manger. Word went out to the people of the town. At the appointed
time they arrived carrying torches and candles.
One of the friars began celebrating Mass. Francis himself gave the sermon. His
biographer, Thomas of Celano, recalls that Francis “stood before the manger…overcome with love and
filled with a wonderful happiness…/” For Francis, the simple celebration was meant to recall the
hardships Jesus suffered even as an infant, a savior who chose to become poor for our sake, a truly
Tonight, as we pray around the Christmas cribs in our homes, we welcome into our hearts that