[READER A]        We come to bless our crib … by that we mean to ask God to bless everyone who will come to pray, with wonder, awe and love, before this visual image of the poverty and simplicity of our Saviour’s birth. St Francis of Assisi, who lived some 800 years ago, was the first to make a crib, using live animals and people: today we use figures to help us celebrate and ponder the mystery of God’s love appearing in human form.

[READER B]      For the People of God the Ox was a symbol of strength, ruggedness and power, all of which is to be harnessed to the service of humankind and the Kingdom of God as we offer the world the hope of New Beginnings.

[CONGREGATION]         Lord God, help us to harness our power and gifts to the service of Your world made new in Divine Love.

[READER A]        The Donkey’s wandering is a symbol of freedom and choice. It is also a reminder that our forebears, the People of Israel, wandered aimlessly away from God and His Covenant.  An uncommon animal in Israel, and ritually unclean, yet it was good enough to carry Mary to Bethlehem, and later to carry Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to face His Passion.  (We listen as our children sing ‘Little Donkey’)

[CONGREGATION]         Lord God, never let us wander away from You, but help us use our freedom always to carry your love to the world.

[READER B]          Shepherds, especially the night watch, were among the lowest paid workers of the time. Despised, placed on the margins of society and religion, without power or influence, these men of poverty were the first to hear the Good News that ‘Today a Saviour has been born to you’.

[CONGREGATION]            Lord God, You seek to rid the world of poverty: give us the love and the insight to welcome the poor into our hearts and homes and so discover that we have welcomed Christ Jesus.

[READER A]        Joseph, the man of dreams, and that strong gentle man of faith: silent in the background, but ready to do whatever God might ask of him.

[CONGREGATION]            Lord God, come and gentle our strength; deepen in us Joseph’s strong faith and tender love that we may dream Your Kingdom, and serve its Coming.

[READER B]          Behold Mary, the handmaid of the Lord, whose ‘Yes!’ brought Hope to our world … the one who bore Jesus in her heart’s love before ever in her body’s womb.  Blessed indeed is she who believed the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.

[CONGREGATION]           Lord God, fill us with grace that like Mary we too may always say our ‘YES’ to Your Word and overshadowing Spirit, that Jesus may take flesh in our lives and bring healing to our world.

[READER A]         Now all is ready.  To African drumming, the Icon of the Nativity and the Christ Child are carried to the Crib.

[RICHARD]     Let us now dedicate our Crib, and pray God’s Blessing upon all who gaze with wonder and pray with love before our God made man, Jesus!

Blessed are You, Lord God of all creation.  Through all ages you prepared a people as Your own.  When the time was ripe, some 2000 years ago, You sent us a Saviour, conceived by the Spirit and born of the Virgin, a man like us in all things but sin. Loving Father, we pray, bless this our Crib + that we may marvel at Your goodness, imitate Your love, and journey in Your light, until the great day of Jesus coming in Glory, when we will live for ever and ever … AMEN!

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