|First in the Nation Nativity Scene, since 2008|
Every year we hear about "The War on Christmas". Before going any further, two things should be clear - there has always been a War on Christ. Secondly, since the enemies of God can never AND WILL NEVER get to Christ, the proxy war has always been against true followers of His since 33 AD, when Jesus has been confirmed as crucified by both Roman documents, Josephus the secular historian and of course, the Bible.
Nativity Scenes or "creches" or the "Manger Scene" are the biggest bone of contention among those pebbles thrown against those who celebrate the Birth of the Savior. But how did we actually get a "Nativity Scene", which is really nowhere in the Bible? Believe it or not, this goes back about 800 years to the great Francis of Assisi who in 1223 observed the same lack of love for the Savior and commercialism we see in modern times. He was stunned by the fact that gift giving was taking precedence (yes also in 1220's!!) over Jesus!
Francis was known for his love of animals and did not just create the first Nativity Scene, but the very first "Living Nativity Scene". He had live animals in the cave and based his creation on his concept of the atmospherics in the birthplace of Christ in Bethlehem. We know from historical conditions around 4 BC to 2 BC, and from my conversations from centuries old families in the Bethlehem and fields of Boaz area, that Jesus was most likely born in a cave or grotto there. The well known shepherds of Bethlehem are still around in those ragged hills where the Choirs of Heaven sang the Saviors birth to the Shepherds in Luke 2. Visitors to the Holy Land can still experience the timeless authenticity of what the Bible spoke of two thousand years ago.
|First Responder Chaplain, director of the Illinois Chapter of Wreaths|
across America at the Dedication to the United States Military
Over the years, it became obviously impossible to have live animals in every manger scene, every where. Therefore, all variations of nativity scenes have been created and many centuries old ones still survive to this day. For the last 8 years, a full size Italian Marble Nativity Scene has been placed in the Rotunda of the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, Illinois. How is this possible when it is obviously a 100% Christian expression of Faith in a country increasingly hostile to Jesus and Christianity?
Quite simply, the first in the Nation State Capitol Nativity Scene is a privately-funded expression idea of the late Daniel and Julie Zanoza of Lincoln, Illinois. Together with the Thomas More Society of Chicago, a religious liberty-defending Christian organization and the Illinois Family Institute, the Zanozas were able to form a committee of like-minded Christians to bring the Nativity Scene inside the "People's House" of the state of Illinois! Not just that, but it passed the test of the ACLU as it was one of many such expressions in the beginning, such as the Hanukkah Menorah and others. These others included Seinfeld's imaginary celebration of "Festivus" and its pole. There was an atheist's letter denouncing the existence of God and some others. Side by side, they all co-existed with the beautifully ordained and adorned Nativity Scene outshining them all. Not just that, they sat around the hugest Christmas tree I have ever seen - in the middle of the state capitol rotunda. This sort of religious expression would have made the Founders of this Great Condition smile with pride, as it was what America is all about - Freedom.
Over the years, only the Jewish Festive Menorah and our Nativity Scene have persevered and this is perfect as Christianity is actually a Judeo-Christian religion. Even Jesus celebrated Hanukkah in 29 AD! ("Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon’s porch. John 10:22-23). Since Illinois has led the way in how to legally celebrate the Savior's birth in the public square (from 2008), ten other American states have followed, from Arkansas to Florida and Mississippi, under the counsel of the American Nativity Scene Committee of suburban Illinois. The Thomas More Society's Founder Thomas Brejcha is one of the leaders of this wonderful group.
In the last three years, Wreaths Across America has now joined us at the Springfield Nativity Scene Committee to partner in remembering and honoring the great United States Military with Christmas wreaths at National Cemeteries. In Springfield, this would be Camp Butler, which as been around since the Union fought the Civil War. Representing Wreaths Across America, which places tens of thousands of these same sweet smelling natural wreaths at Arlington Cemetery, is Chaplain Steve Holden, of the United States Emergency Services Chaplains Corps.
Each year, this first in the nation historical event, is celebrated with a full Christmas launch service with speakers and Christmas singers as well as the dedication of the wreaths with full military honors, on the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving. The Springfield Nativity Scene remains inside the state capitol in Springfield, Illinois, until Christmas Eve, for free public viewing.