The Nativity Scene

IF THERE is one symbol that would summarize the celebration of Christmas, it would be the nativity scene.

The nativity scene, commonly known as Belen in the Philippines, is a three-dimensional art depiction of the birth of Jesus Christ in a manger in Bethlehem.

Belen, derived from the Spanish name for Bethlehem, can be seen in homes, schools and churches during the Holiday season.

"Christmas is the center of our lives in the sense that God became one with us that is why the Belen is the symbol of Christ becoming one with us," said Fr. Frank Toben of Our Mother of Perpetual Help Parish (Redemptorist Church).

The nativity scene is composed of Baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and their flock and sometimes also includes the Three Kings or the three wise men and angels.

In Luke Chapter 2 verses 6 to 8, Mary gave birth to Jesus while they were in Bethlehem and placed him in a manger together with the shepherds and their flock because there was no inn available during that time.

Fr. Toben explained that this symbolizes that through Jesus' birth through Mary, He became one with us in "a human way."

He said that Joseph, who serves as a "father-figure" to Jesus and the shepherds and the three wise men shows that Jesus is for everyone, both the low and high status people.

This tradition, according to Fr. Toben, originated in the middle ages when St. Francis of Assisi saw that the real meaning of Christmas was becoming lost because people back then focused more in gift giving rather that the birth of Jesus Christ.

"That's why Christmas is the season for Joy because God become one with us and the phrase that is used in the Gospel is Emmanuel because God has become one with us and that's what we are celebrating," he said.

More than the Belen which is only one of the symbols of Christmas, Fr. Toben said that people should focus on the main purpose of the celebration of this season which is Jesus Christ.

Christmas celebration officially begins today as the Catholic faithful observes the Simbang Gabi or the Misa de Gallo.

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