13th December, 2004 - Article Copyrighted Debbie Porter
"After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, 'Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.'"
~ Matthew 2:1-2 NIV ~
Several Christmases ago our local shopping center decided to do the "politically correct" and "culturally sensitive" thing by not including the very old nativity scene in the usual Christmas display of shiny baubles, bells, tinsel, trees and Santa Claus.
To be honest, the nativity scene was fairly worn and scrappy (much older than the shopping center itself) and looked exactly what it was – a lot of store mannequins dressed up in tatty Biblical-type costumes. Even so, its inclusion along with the aforementioned shiny baubles, bells, tinsel, trees and Santa Claus, was always appreciated by those customers who held the true meaning of Christmas near to their hearts.
So the year that it didn't appear along with the shiny baubles, etc, was a time of disappointed headshaking for some shoppers – although for most, the decision to remove the tableau wasn't surprising. The management had obviously decided to take the path of least resistance and therefore avoid upsetting any who may find the depiction of a Christian event offensive.
While most of us sighed and accepted it as a sign of the times, understanding that the Management had every right to do whatever they wanted to do with the Center under their oversight, there were some who actively complained. However, their complaints fell on one set of deaf and fairly antagonistic ears.
That Christmas came and went, and apparently so did the staff member responsible for the shopping center's displays. In her place came someone who knew that Christmas without Christ is no Christmas at all.
First the nativity scene came back – in all its faded, tatty, 1940 store window mannequin glory. Then, the next year, a brand new, beautiful display was purchased and placed in a more prominent position. Since then, this glorious (if slightly inaccurate, due to the inclusion of the wise men) scene has been positioned with respect and obvious care.
This year, however, was the absolute piece de resistance; for this year the depiction of our Savior's birth has been given what could only be described as pride of place – at the main entrance to the shopping center. The first thing most shoppers now see as they walk through the door is the true meaning of Christmas. The baubles, bells, tinsel, trees and Santa, are all still on display – but for once, they aren’t the focal point.
At times I have to pinch myself and wonder if I'm dreaming – never more so than on the first morning that I saw this year's Christmas display. After noticing, with delight, the position of the nativity scene, I realized that the center's sound system was playing Amazing Grace throughout the complex. Then, with that "sweet sound" still resonating in my soul, I stepped through the turnstile of our supermarket to the refrain of, "O Come Let Us Adore Him ..."
Australia, with all its easy-going, laid back, "she'll be right" attitude, has been experiencing a change of heart. This doesn't mean we're in revival over here or that there have been vast multitudes rushing to churches across the Country asking, "What must I do to be saved?" But something is happening.
For the first time in recent years, there has been a backlash from the public over any overt removal of Christ from Christmas or failure to celebrate the event in an expected way. When a Sydney newspaper apparently misquoted the Lord Mayor as having said that it was important to make Christmas acceptable multi-culturally, the response was overwhelming. Even the Prime Minister, Mr. Howard, weighed in with the comment that it's impossible to make this event culturally acceptable to all, because Christmas is celebrating an historical event! That's a fact that no amount of political correctness can change.
Every year the number of Carols by Candlelight events taking place around the Nation increases in leaps and bounds. No matter how many pews may be empty in churches on Christmas Day, the wonder is that Australian men, women and children turn out in droves to local parks in their communities to celebrate the truth of Christmas and to sing songs of worship to the King of kings – whether they fully realize it or not.
Yes, there may be a multitude of reasons for this growing trend of acceptance, or at least tolerance, of all aspects of Christmas celebrations. But somehow I can't help but believe that, underneath it all, there is a longing being expressed in hearts everywhere. A longing that is an echo of the Wise Men's words so very long ago ...
"Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him."
Oh come let us adore Him, for He is Christ the Lord!
Something to Think About ...
Mr. John Howard, the Prime Minister of Australia, included a stirring rally to Australian Christians in his final address to Parliament for the year. In it he apparently encouraged Christians to stop shrinking back and to celebrate their faith this Christmas, without the concerns of being politically correct. He then made the comment that Australia is what it is today because of the fact that it was built upon a good foundation of Judeo-Christian values.
The wise men were following a shining star to lead them to the newborn King. In much the same way, people are looking for shining stars to lead them today – they are looking to Christian men, women and children, like you and me, to point them in the right direction.
To borrow the Apostle Paul's words to the church in Philippi, "Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life." (Philippians 2:14-16a)
This Christmas, let's not "shrink back", and let's not be content to just hang a star on the top of our trees. Instead, let's all be bright and beautiful shining stars for Jesus, showing the way for all those who seek to find and worship Him.
Father God ...
Thank You for the gift of Christmas – the greatest gift of all.
As we draw near to this special day of celebration, may we keep our eyes and hearts focused on the reason for our rejoicing and, as Christians, not shrink back.
Instead, may we be like shining stars in the universe as we hold out the word of life this Christmas and always dear Lord.
Give us Your wisdom and words as we share the reason for this joy and hope we have in You.
In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.