Very, very interesting about the Nativity scene.
It’s famous all over the world. People everywhere know on sight what it represents. I’ve traveled the world over, and every year at this time various depictions of the Nativity spring up – in department stores, public squares, in commercial ads, in front of churches and on private lawns and countless Christmas greeting cards.
I swear the Japanese celebrate Christmas more openly and with more lavish decorations than Americans do now. And nativity scenes are evident everywhere. All over the Far East, Asia, Africa, even parts of the Middle East – and the people know that it’s a representation of a real event, an event that touches and moves them, that signifies a real moment in history, a moment that somehow changed the world. It changed their world, as well as ours.
They know the nativity concerns a man, a woman and a child, a very special child whose birth caused the skies to burst with song, angels to announce his coming, wise men to travel from distant places to see an innocent, vulnerable, anonymous baby. The child was special, in ways they don’t really understand, to God.
And they respect the scene, they are enticed by it. There is a romance, a mystery, a lot of questions they don’t know the answers to, but they’re intrigued and delighted by. In some strange way, they feel connected to it – or at least would like to be – and they celebrate whatever it means. To them, it seems a necessary part of the day called Christmas. And they look forward to it every year – in countries whose national religions are Hindu, Islam, Buddhism and others!
Paradoxically, there is a growing aversion to the Nativity in this country, a number of people and groups who seem determined to remove it from public display. Remarkably, they are alienated by it, irritated by it, offended by it. This hostility is only recent, really, but it’s especially virulent, vocal and increasingly litigious. There are lawsuits, demonstrations, alternate displays of atheistic notions, though there are no distinct events to peg them to. There’s just angry opposition to the Nativity scene itself.
It’s obvious, isn’t it? This anger, this hostility, wells up in people who feel “left out” of the joyous, eternal promise bound up in the Nativity scene. To see others warmed and inspired by something that belongs only to them by way of their faith – their faith in the God of the Bible and their identification with the little Babe in the manger – fills some with rage and others with just open jealousy and rancor.
Though the objectors are perfectly free to celebrate their own faith, or lack of it, in their own ways, that’s not enough.
“What right do those Bible thumpers have to put their displays up in public faces and rub our noses in their silly traditions?” they screech.
Victoria’s Secret and Budweiser and Camels and Viagra are OK, but that miserable Nativity scene is offensive!
Hanukkah and Kwanza and Ramadan are permissible, and gay pride parades, but keep that Nativity scene in a dark church basement where it belongs!
Then why is it that millions and millions of people all over this country and the world desire, and look eagerly for, that simple, humble scene?
I’ve just had a revelation about that. And I share it with you here.
It’s that old, worn book, the Bible, that describes the event we call the Nativity, the birth of the baby named Jesus. It was well over 2,000 years ago, in an out of the way place called Bethlehem, an event that our modern calendar dates from today. That fact alone should be worthy of celebrating, at least as much as Ground Hog Day or Columbus Day, don’t you think?
In our minds, we join Joseph and Mother Mary in the shepherd’s cave, peer into the swaddled cradle and peek at the infant therein.
Chills run up our spines and tears fill our eyes as we gaze upon the One the prophet Isaiah foretold would come:
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
And yes, we feel awe. We feel wonder and amazement. We marvel that God, in His omnipotence and majesty, would allow – no, ordain – that His own Son begin His earthly mission in the form of a little, defenseless, vulnerable baby.
And He was born, not in a palace, but a humble cave, in a sheep crib.
But so it was, and in His very vulnerability, we are drawn to Him.
Recently, though, I realized a deep truth about that mystical attraction. I recalled that Abraham, called the Father of the Faithful by Jews, Arabs and Christians, was a 100-year-old itinerant sheepherder himself when he fathered Isaac. And Isaac fathered Jacob. And from the loins of one man, Abraham, there issued all the Arab nations and the people of Israel.
And the Apostle Paul, himself a devout orthodox Jew who came to acknowledge Jesus as Isaiah’s promised Messiah, said to all Gentiles who also came to believe in Jesus, “You were dead in your sins, strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world until you received Christ. He is our peace, who has made us one, and broken down the middle wall of partition between us.”
That, paraphrased, is saying that the little Jewish baby was given by God to break down all religious barriers and to give every last one of us the chance to be – what? Born again!
To start over, in our relationship with God, and be given an eternal life!
Do you see it? Does that help you understand why we who believe – and many who don’t yet – feel so drawn to the Nativity scene, and to the little Babe Himself? If we truly comprehend and believe, we’re celebrating not just His birth but our own! Spiritually, we’re emanating from that same manger!
Just as the birth of Isaac gave birth to mighty nations of Arabs and Jews, the birth of Jesus offers new birth and eternal life to all who receive Him in faith.
The grown Jesus proclaimed, “I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.”
Let the heathen rage and the atheists scoff. I, this Christmas, celebrate the birth of Christ – yours as well and my own.