Where have all the Nativities gone?

Where have all the Nativities gone? December 19, 2011

Where have all the Nativities gone?

That’s the question I asked Tim after our annual Christmas outing.

There was a time in this country when creches, life-size and minatures, were prominently on display.

Not any more.

I couldn’t even find a Nativity for sale in the dozens of stores I visited today.

“My mother is having the same problem in North Carolina,” said one department store manager when I inquired about whether they sold any. “Have you tried the Christian bookstore yet?”

That was the one place I hadn’t tried.

But that got me to thinking about how there was a time in this nation when Nativities were a common site during the CHRISTmas season.

At schools.

At libraries.

At City Hall.

Certainly in the windows of the largest department stores.

And in the biggest malls.

Churches had them,too.

There was a time when even Hollywood found them to be sacred.


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  • Eleanor Lucas

    Exactly the same thing here, Karen. We were at Kohl’s last week, and they have a huge Christmas decorations area. I found exactly one very small, one-piece creche, at the very back of the department.

  • April Terry

    Now when we see them, we appreciate them oh so much more. Now, when they are on someone’s front lawn or in front of a small business, we notice, and a little tear builds up behind her eyes. Now, when we sing “Oh, Little Town of Bethlehem” we can’t do it without getting choked up and those who are listening weep unashamedly at them. I witnessed this just last weekend as I sang those traditional songs. They mean so much more than “Jingle Bells” and “Let it Snow.”

    Now, we have become the town criers for a faith that has been battered by indifference and consumerism, but make no mistake, those who are listening are well affected by the message when it is received.

  • AFRoger

    Partly because I know the landscape and the sights and smells and weather, the juxtaposition of salt water and fresh in modern day Istanbul, I pause about many things we still take for granted in our worship and practice of the Christian faith in churches today. For it was in Istanbul, formerly Byzantium, formerly Constantinople, that the worship life of the Christian faith got itself tangled up with the trappings of royalty, the processional grandeur of the imperial court. Hagia Sofia, the church begun by Emperor Justinian in AD 536 still stands on one of the city’s hilltops. If there was a place where the deadly prosperity gospel may have first reared its ugly head to become the official and only accepted iteration of the church, perhaps it was here in this maritime city that is more like Seattle than Phoenix, our usual impression of anything and everything in the Middle East.

    As a child I memorized Luther’s Small Catechism. It was required. I still recall this explanation of “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”, the third petition of the Lord’s prayer: “The good and gracious will of God is done indeed without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may be done among us also.” It doesn’t depend on plastic decorations made in China, nor on constructions cut locally from plywood. If we want to be strictly biblical, it doesn’t seem that the astrologers bearing gifts were there side by side with the shepherds. The infant in the manger was not born to have a life apart from the cross. The serenity of the supposed “silent night” cannot be savored apart from Herod’s slaughter of children and the little family’s recapitulation of flight into Egypt without which there could be no Exodus from it. If there’s a model of where and how God works, we might consider a refugee family today.

    We can have perfect and comprehensive knowledge of what happened in events past, or at least convince ourselves that we do. But unless we know what these events mean, we really have little more than an empty symbol. In every time and every age, the Lord reigns, and Christ’s church needs renewal. Resurrection is possible only when there has been a death. Whatever we mourn as a death is passing, however, because re-birth is going on regardless. The church, ironically or perhaps not, has had its most vibrant life in times of severe adversity. Angels call to us today to look about for that re-birth. It is always ahead of us, never in the past.

    The good and gracious will of God is done indeed without our prayer… even without our decorations.

  • Sherwood MacRae

    The saddest part of the nativity “issue” in public places is the insecurity of those among us who do understand the privileges afforded us by the “freedom from religion” clause in our Constitution.

    Every one except a few zealous Christians seem to recognize how it benefits us and all other religions. Perhaps that is why our Lord selected zealots among his disciples.

    • Sherwood8028

      Excuse me, I meant – “do NOT understand…”

  • Sharon O

    There are no Christian book stores where I live everything is on line now. And to add to your question our ‘nativity’ was stolen out of our front yard two years ago. All we had was footprints in the snow and one lonely cow who fell in the attempt of kidnapping. Our nativity the rest of the month was a donkey, a sheep and a cow. The ‘family’ was missing.

  • Freyrsman22

    I love how you think that I a non-Christian tax payer and student should have his tax dollars spent on your religion being shoved down my throat.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Nobody is forcing you to buy a Nativity. Or even suggesting that you pause before one on the public square. There’s nothing that says you have to participate in Christmas at all, in any fashion. You don’t have to honor the Christ child or believe in the Virgin Birth. I’m not suggesting that the Oregon Ducks wear helmets emblazoned with a Crucifix. All I am saying is that this is Christmas and the reason we have this holiday is because a significant population around the world recognize this holiday as the birth of Christ. Why then do we feel the need to erase any image of Christ in association with this holiday here in the US? Nativities are common sights in other countries. They used to be in ours. Until people like you started whining that you were having religion thrust upon you. If having a Nativity in a home or on the front lawn offends you, you are too easily offended.