Well, you know it’s the Christmas season when the lawsuits start getting filed over nativity scenes on public property. Putting up these creches or manger scenes that depict the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, has long been used during this holiday season to serve as a reminder of the reason behind all the newspaper inserts and television ads.
The first nativity scene is credited to St Francis of Assisi, in 1223, where he used real people and animals in a cave near Greccio, Italy. He set this scene to remind people that the meaning of Christmas was about Jesus and not materialism and gifts. Being approved by the Pope, other churches across Italy started setting up nativity scenes at Christmas. As the tradition spread, statues eventually replaced the humans and animals. But the meaning behind the nativity scenes was still to remind us of the reason Christmas. That is until the 1990, when nativity scenes started reminding us of the separation between church and state. Some people insisted that nativity scene should be in front of city halls or the town squares. This was not the reason St. Francis had when he established the first nativity scene. Nativity scenes are not the reason behind Christmas, they represent the meaning of Christmas and should be in front of churches, not court houses. It’s not the nativity scene that’s important, it’s the meaning behind it.
Some “Christians” would rather fight over a word rather than celebrate what the word stand for. Take, for example, the the phrase “Merry Christmas.” There are some who argue that if you say “Happy Holiday” your denigrating the meaning of Christmas. There is always talk of boycotting stores where “Happy Holiday” is used. Complaints are made over cities and states who erect Holiday Trees rather than Christmas Trees. What is overlooked is that the word “holiday” comes from the Old English words “Holy Day.” And, guess what, Christmas is a holy day. So saying Happy Holiday is saying happy holy day and the holy day is Christmas. It’s not the word that is significant, it’s the meaning behind it.
A few years back there was an uproar over the use of Xmas for Christmas. Some people claimed that this was “x’ing out Christ in Christmas. In fact, the church in the past had often referred to Christmas as Xmas because the Greek letter chi or “X” was the initial for Christ. You may have seen the Greek chi placed on the Greek letter rho, which looks like a capital “P.” This is a frequently used symbol for Christ on church vestments and hangings. It’s not the word, or letter, that’s important it’s the meaning behind it.
I suggest that rather than trying to put nativity scenes on public property, or avoiding places where they say Happy Holiday or have a Holiday tree, or complain about the “X” in Xmas, we start remembering the important thing that is behind all these things. Stop worrying about creches, trees, and terms and start worrying about the hungry, the poor, and the homeless. And have a Happy Holiday.