Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Christmas Story

                We can strengthen our families, communities, and nations by celebrating the birth of Christ. One way to celebrate is to enact the Nativity story with our families and friends. When our oldest children were toddlers, my husband and I began acting out the Nativity story on Christmas Eve. The tradition continues to this day in our home as well as in the homes of our children. Over the years I sewed many Nativity costumes, and last year I sent numerous costumes to children living out of Alaska.

                I also collect Nativity sets and own approximately 40 Nativity items ranging from complete sets to sets with the Holy Family to the skirt for our Christmas tree. The three Anchorage stakes of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recently held an event featuring Nativities.

                I was out of town when the call went out for Nativity sets, so I did not loan any of my own sets. I was able to attend the final evening of the event. I enjoyed watching my son as a wise man in a live Nativity. I also enjoyed seeing my granddaughter take part in another room set up with a stable and costumes for children to wear while acting out the Nativity. In the large cultural hall, there were hundreds of Nativity items on display.  I enjoyed walking around the room numerous times to see the many items.

                Last year I filed an article about Nativities written by Carly Hoilman at The Blaze. The article tells of Christmas in the city of Wadena in Minnesota and includes pictures. In November 2015 city officials voted to remove a nativity display from a local park because the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) threatened legal action if they did not. The atheist activist group is based in Wisconsin, but they were offended by a Nativity in a small town in Minnesota.

                It seems that the tiny city of about 4,000 had the Nativity set up in a park but moved it to city property in a more central location last Christmas. The atheists were offended to have the Nativity on city property even though it was a city tradition for many years with no previous complaints.

                A lady by the name of Joan Anderson contacted The Blaze to share her experience of being in the town. An Illinois native, she was visiting her brother in Minnesota and decided to visit Wadena. She describes Wadena, founded in 1858, as “a blue-collar town full of the Love of God and the birth of Jesus.” There are nine churches in the small town.

                Anderson stopped for lunch at a local diner and described the local people in their familiar environment. “These were hard-working farmers, laborers, truckers working hard to put food on their table and keep Christ in Christmas.” She felt something was different about the situation, and she soon realized that none of them were using their cell phones but were instead “talking to their spouses, laughing with their children and talking about their Christmas shopping.” Many of them prayed over their food.

                Taking a stroll down the two-block-long downtown area, Anderson was delighted to see that the common folks in Wadena had gotten the best of the atheists. FFRF had succeeded in removing the Nativity from public property, but they had not removed Nativities from the town. The townspeople put Nativity scenes in “nearly every shop window” and made their town into “a regular Christmas wonderland.” Christmas music played from two speakers on top the diner, and townspeople wished each other “Merry Christmas.” There is a gazebo in the town square, which is rented by individual families who then erect a different nativity scene each day.    
                Anderson captured the hope of the city with these words, “The Atheist Grinch tried to take Christ out of Christmas but the Whos down in Whoville would not have it. Christmas came, [and] it came bigger and better than before!”

                My thought is: “You can take the Nativity off city property, but you cannot take the Christmas spirit and the love of the Nativity out of the hearts of the people.” The residents of Wadena found a way to get around the demand of the atheist Grinch and kept the Spirit of Christ in their city.

                On December 12, 1976, Jeffrey R. Holland, then commissioner of Church education and now a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, addressed the Religious Instruction faculty at Brigham Young University and spoke on the topic of “Maybe Christmas Doesn’t Come from a Store,” which was taken from Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas. This rather long excerpt from Elder Holland’s talk adds greater understanding for me of the Christmas story.

                “Part of the purpose for telling the story of Christmas is to remind us that Christmas doesn’t come from a store. Indeed, however delightful we feel about it, even as children, each year it `means a little bit more.’ And no matter how many times we read the biblical account of that evening in Bethlehem, we always come away with a thought – or two – we haven’t had before.
                “There are so many lessons to be learned from the sacred account of Christ’s birth that we always hesitate to emphasize one at the expense of all the others. Forgive me while I do just that in the time we have together here.                                 “One impression which has persisted with me recently is that this is a story – in profound paradox with our own times – that this is a story of intense poverty. I wonder if Luke did not have some special meaning when he wrote not `there was no room in the inn’ but specifically that `there was no room for them in the inn.’ (Luke 2:7; italics added.) We cannot be certain, but it is my guess that money could talk in those days as well as in our own. I think if Joseph and Mary had been people of influence or means, they would have found lodging even at that busy time of year.
                “I have wondered if the Inspired Version also was suggesting they did not know the `right people’ in saying, `There was none to give room for them in the inns.’ (JST, Luke 2:7.)
                “We cannot be certain what the historian intended, but we do know these two were desperately poor. At the purification offering which the parents made after the child’s birth, a turtledove was substituted for the required lamb, a substitution the Lord had allowed in the Law of Moses to ease the burden of the truly impoverished. (See Lev. 12:8.)”

                As you study, teach, and enact the story of Christmas, let the Holy Spirit be your guide in order that you might learn and teach the parts of the story that are important to you and your family this year. As you do so, I know that you will strengthen your family as well as your community and nation.

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