On the First Sunday of Advent, December 1, 2019, Pope Francis presented to all the faithful an Apostolic Letter on the meaning and importance of the nativity scene. The title is “Admirabile signum” (The enchanting image”). He begins, “The enchanting image of the Christmas crèche, so dear to the Christian people, never ceases to arouse amazement and wonder.” He goes on to emphasize the meaningful tradition of nativity scenes in churches and families, in every culture, and then points out the significance of each of the elements – the night sky, the landscape, angels, shepherds, animals, the Magi, St. Joseph, the Virgin Mary, and the Baby Jesus. The Holy Father encourages the faithful to carry on the tradition as part of passing on the faith to younger generations, and to set up crèches in homes, workplaces, schools, prisons, town squares, as well as in churches. He highlights the wonder and joy that radiate from the scene whether it is simple and bare or depicts an entire village.
Pope Francis traveled to the Shrine of the Nativity in Greccio, Italy, to present the new Apostolic Letter. Greccio is where St. Francis of Assisi arranged a living crèche to teach the people about the earthiness of the Incarnation, inviting townsfolk to re-enact the scene of Christ’s birth in Bethlehem.