I hope this post will be of interest to pastors and church leaders. It contains an idea for doing something positive in regard to keeping Christ in Christmas.
I think I have a badge, maybe underneath my socks, that says something like, "I say Merry Christmas," or, "It's OK to say Merry Christmas." I wore it for a few times when I first got it, but as the campaign to "Keep Christ in Christmas" became more militant and political, I put it away. I am all for keeping Christ in Christmas, but I don't see any reason why I should pressure retailers into forcing their employees to use a particular greeting. There are Jews, Muslims, and people of other faiths, or no faith, who have no reason to wish me a Merry Christmas. We can debate the point on another occasion, but there are some who believe that followers of Christ are a negative influence in our communities. They find the celebration of Christ's birthday to be a bad thing. I am glad that I live in a country in which people are free to worship, or not worship, as they choose. I will be glad to discuss why I think Jesus Christ is Lord, but I won't participate in any attempt to force others to act like they believe something they don't.
The above gives some background to why I am so proud of my church for its Live Nativity presentation. We aren't twisting arms to get others to "Keep Christ in Christmas." Rather in a warm, winsome way the folk in my church are offering our neighbors an opportunity to experience the story of Christmas. Lo and behold, when you look into the story Christ is right there, and not just in a manger.
First let me remove some possible misconceptions. Ours is a small church. On a good Sunday we have 150 in attendance. No one died and left us a large bequest to finance this ministry. We use what we have--primarily a willingness to work hard and the good will of some neighbors to put on this presentation. Basically what I'm saying is if we can do this any church can.
Here is how it works. Hopefully you can find some ideas here that can be adapted to your situation.
Because of the goodwill of our local Parks Department we are able to use a very nice public park for our presentation. We transform the picnic shelter into the Village of Bethlehem. Guests are welcomed to Bethlehem by the Mayor. They are informed that Caesar Augustus has decreed that all must sign the census. A money changer provides the visitors with Shekels
so they can purchase "bread" (mostly cookies,
though in the past we have offered bread and fruit). Bethlehem is the House of Bread. A Roman soldier struts about and makes himself obnoxious. The Mayor warns visitors to guard their Shekels and women from the Romans. Kids can play simple games, and buy some trinkets in the shops.
Every 15 minutes or so, visitors in the Bethlehem are encouraged to take a ride on one of the
These trailers take guests past scenes that portray:
- the annunciation,
- the shepherds in the field and the announcement by the angels,
- The scene at the manger,
- The visit of the wisemen to the young king,
- A scene by the sea of Galilee,
- The Crucifixion,
- The Empty Tomb,
- And the Great White Throne.
Instead of a scold, demanding that our neighbors say, "Merry Christmas," rather than, "Happy Holidays," our community is greeted with a warm smile, some cookies, an opportunity to visit with friends, and a winsome, unique presentation of the greatest story ever told. Granted we are a Bible-belt community, but the general response we get after our presentation is a warm thanks. Many families return year after year. The only negative responses I recall are complaints that we only do our presentation for one weekend, and that the presentation by Satan, "Lou C. Fir" was just too frightening. (Our ushers warned people about this particular guide, but some did not heed the warning. There were those who spoke highly of the devil being a guide. I think they enjoyed the spectacle of his defeat, and seeing things from a different perspective opens one's mind.)
We know that we can't accurately portray these events. We try to not include elements that are false--
You can find more pictures of our event here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=oa.10156292371485054&type=1
We would be glad to talk to you about how you could host a Live Nativity in your community. Write us at firstname.lastname@example.org.