“Setting up the nativity scene is celebrating God’s closeness. God has always been close to his people, but when he became incarnate, when he was born, he was extremely close, very, very close: it is rediscovering that God is real, concrete, alive and active”. Pope Francis said this in his General Audience catechesis today. Recalling what he had written in his recent apostolic letter, he stressed, a week before Christmas, that “the nativity scene is like a living Gospel”: “It brings the Gospel to the places where we live: homes, schools, workplaces and meeting places, hospitals and nursing homes, prisons and squares. And in the places where we live, it reminds us of something essential: that God did not remain invisible in heaven, but came down to Earth, he became man, a child”. “God is not a distant Lord or a detached judge, but humble Love, who came down to us”, the Pope remarked: “The Child in the crib gives us his tenderness. Some figurines depict the ‘Child’ with open arms, to tell us that God has come to embrace our humanity. So it is beautiful to stand before the nativity scene and there entrust our lives to the Lord, telling him about the people and the situations that we hold dear, taking stock of the year that is coming to an end, and sharing our expectations and concerns with him”. “In these days, as we rush around making preparations for Christmas, we can ask ourselves: ‘How am I preparing for the birth of the One we celebrate?’”, the Holy Father asked: “A simple but effective way to prepare ourselves is to set up the nativity scene. I too, this year, have followed this path: I went to Greccio, where St Francis set up the first nativity scene with the locals. And I wrote a letter to recall the meaning of this tradition – the meaning of the nativity scene in the Christmas season”.