Christmas is always filled with excitement. People begin counting down the shopping days as soon as they are finished opening gifts on Christmas morning. Little children can hardly go to sleep on Christmas Eve due the anticipation of the next day’s events. The ribbons, packages, lights, trees, and food can at times cause a sensory overload with everything else going on. Not only are we surrounded with all the seasonal trimmings, but the travel can also be more than we can handle. Plus every family member needs to be contacted in some form or fashion. Ideally a face to face visit is best, but a phone call or card will do in a pinch. We will (in some years) physically and financially drain ourselves in order to “enjoy” this incredible holiday. Yes, Christmas is all of these things and it happens every year, to our delight.
But in the midst of the madness do you take the time to consider the purpose for the party? Do you really stop and think about the guest of honor, Jesus Christ? It is impossible to truly take Christ out of CHRISTmas. Yet somehow every year, we go through the same formalities and traditions, nod our heads, agree that we need to do better in remembering Christ, and continue on without honestly reflecting on the real, true, biblical account of His birth.
The truth that will never change is that Jesus really did exist. He really came to live among people like you and me with His purpose being the salvation of mankind. And His entire humanity experience began in a little town called Bethlehem. In the middle of crowded streets of people, worried about money and taxes, concerned about finding a place to sleep and eat (sound familiar?), came this small gift wrapped not with seasonal packaging but in “swaddling clothes”. This little baby, innocent and pure, who had done nothing wrong and was at the mercy of His earthly parents for protection and care, had come to earth to provide eternal life for you and me. That’s the real Christmas experience. If you take away all the “extras” that make Christmas special to you, the fullness of Christmas will still remain as long as you’ve got Jesus. It was never supposed to be about us but rather about Him. In Him is the ultimate message of giving over receiving.
For some, it may be difficult to imagine the biblical story of Christ’s birth. That was centuries ago in a culture and time that is completely different from our way of life. No cell phones, no email, no myspace, no…well you get the picture. If there was just a way to convey what it might have been like. If there was some way we could go back to that night or maybe just find something that would be a good representation of that night, maybe all this would make more sense; maybe we could shift our focus off the temporal and toward the eternal.
With that thought in mind and to bridge that gap, Pastor Vernon Ables and Children’s Pastor Mark Ferren of Searcy First Assembly of God came up with a plan. This plan would require countless hours of work, numerous sketches and drawings, and much research. It would take hundreds of church volunteers to sew costumes, build sets, and portray the characters involved in the biblical account of Christ’s birth. It would transform the outside of First Assembly into the town of Bethlehem and allow visitors to drive through the “city” in order to experience the birth of Christ. But more than that, it would be the kind of reminder and uplifting experience that people need during the Christmas season. From this plan came “The Living Nativity”. Now going into its third year, “The Living Nativity” has been seen by more than 20,000 people and has impacted countless others through testimony after testimony. There is no charge for the event. It is simply the church’s desire to give back to the community a priceless gift with its roots deeply grounded in Jesus Christ.
If you would like to experience Christmas from a fresh perspective, please come by First Assembly of God located at 101 Benton Street in Searcy, Arkansas. “The Living Nativity” will impact your life all season long and will help you keep CHRIST in CHRISTmas.