This year, in a small Minnesota town named Wadena, a Christmas miracle is taking place. The nativity scene, or crèche, has been a long-standing part of the town’s religious and historic tradition. Each year, the nativity scene is erected on city property in a park in the center of town. Recently, a self-described atheist took issue with the scene, decrying that religious displays have no place in public spaces. His anti-Christmas and anti-Christian attitude has been likened to the character of Scrooge by many people. The Freedom from Religion Foundation, a group based out of Wisconsin, jumped on the atheist’s bandwagon and threatened to sue the City of Wadena on the grounds of separation of church and state.
The city council regrettably agreed to remove the nativity scene. They sold the manger display to the Wadena Ministerial Association for $25 to showcase elsewhere on private property. Nearly the whole town mourned the removal of the Nativity display from the park, for it remained an enduring religious symbol and important part Wadena’s identity for 40 years. Many of the town’s residents prayed for a miracle. That’s when faith stepped in. Yes, faith, not fate. Wadena resident Dani Sworski set forth a town challenge asking residents to bring back the spirit of Christmas. The creation of a Facebook page dedicated to the cause helped to unite and inspire the town. A goal was set to display manger scenes all over town. Folks happily joined together to set up nativities in their yards, with neighbor helping neighbor. In addition, residents began rotating to reserve the town’s bandstand daily to display an inflatable nativity scene right near the old site of the original. The official total of nativity sets is now up over 1,000 with no official count yet. It’s possible that the small town of just over 4,000 residents may surpass the world record set by a Florida church in 2010, though there’s competition with a church in Ohio vying for the same record this year. One thing remains certain; you can’t crush the spirit of believers.
The nativity holds special meaning for many people. As a young child, I reflected upon the birth of Jesus, puzzled how one teeny tiny baby born in a manger could cause such a stir! The pieces fit together as I grew to learn that God was to establish His Kingdom promised by prophets and angels by sending His only Son “in the flesh” to save us from sin. My favorite part of the story is how the three Wise Men followed a star to where Mary had given birth. Upon seeing Jesus, they bowed down to worship him. They offered gifts to the newborn King in the forms of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Let us vow to keep Christ in Christmas by proudly displaying our nativity scenes to share the good news of Jesus’ birth. Let us be thankful to be one nation under God in a country with religious freedom. Merry Christmas!
Saint Francis of Assisi created the first nativity scene in 1223 to promote the meaning of Christmas through a depiction of the story of the birth of Jesus Christ. This was done to place emphasis upon the worship of Christ rather than upon secular materialism. Most scenes typically contain baby Jesus in the manger; His mother, Mary; His earthly father, Joseph; shepherds, angels, and barn animals. Some contain the three Wise Men who came from the east. Today, these displays are well-known symbols of the Christmas season.