The following was submitted to my local newspaper in response to two other articles/letters that had been printed. It was not printed, so I am publishing it here. [note: it actually did end up being printed later on]
Two letters in the December 5, 2007 edition of the [name of local paper] bemoaned the removal of nativity scenes from public property. The authors both believed that Christ is being taken out of Christmas, and wonder, “where is the Christ in Christmas?”
I too wonder that. Where is the Christ in our home decorations of candy canes, lights, trees, Santa, reindeer, and snow globes? Where is the Christ in our frenzied shopping to buy more things that we do not need, to fulfill wish lists of children and adults who will forget what they received within months, if not weeks or even days? Where is the Christ in our overindulgence of Christmas cookies? Is he there? Or has he been pushed aside, albeit unknowingly, to make room for all the “fun” Christmas activities? When we display a nativity scene in our homes as just one of the many themes of Christmas, making it equal to the other seasonal decorations, we are pushing the Christ aside. Why should we expect the government to make him a focus if we cannot do it ourselves? Sure, we may go to church on Christmas Eve for an hour and sing our Christmas carols, but what happens the next morning? The Christ is gone, and Santa has come.
The author of one of the letters likened the display being taken away to the Grinch who stole Christmas. The Grinch, however, stole only those outward signs of Christmas: the presents and the decorations. The message in the story is that Christmas still came without those things. Would it happen that way for us? Without our public decorations, would we still have Christmas? We should still have it. It doesn't matter if government displays or doesn't display a nativity scene. It doesn't matter if we choose not to compete with our neighbors with putting up lights. What matters is that we ask ourselves if we are truly celebrating Christmas. Are we celebrating what we think it is, a season of love, family, and compassion, as one author pointed out, or are we celebrating what it truly is, a unique time in history when the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob made himself known in a unique way, when instead of His presence dwelling in the tabernacle in the wilderness or in the temple in Jerusalem, His presence dwelt in the person of Jesus?
If we take the time to ponder the mystery of the Almighty God, creator of heaven and earth, coming to us in such a way, everything else we deem important, such as whether or not we can have nativity displays on public property, or whether or not we have bought just the right presents, pales in comparison. Instead of feeling offended that there is not a nativity display, what if we took that energy and spent time contemplating, praying, asking God what he would have us do instead of asking the government to do it for us? How would we then be able to have our lives transformed and help in transforming the lives of others, just as our world began to be transformed when the Christ was born? Perhaps, then, we would be a living, breathing embodiment of the Christ, perhaps we would indeed be the body of Christ as we should be, and manufactured displays would no longer have to do it for us.