Believe it or not, this December will mark the 5th anniversary of “The Living Nativity” in Harmony Square. In an era where North American cities squabble over whether or not there should be a faded plastic nativity displayed in parks, our city embraces a living one… including wise-crackin’, dancin’ shepherds. To paraphrase Katy Perry, in Brantford, this is how we do.
December 12th, 13th, and 14th there will be a 7pm show and an 8pm show as in previous years. With good weather, there will again be thousands from all walks of life that will bring their families, dates, or pets downtown to see this story one more time. Christmas has a disproportionately hypnotic attribute to it.
We sometimes objectively try to analyze why this is. We chalk it up to our Pavlovian reactions to familiar stimuli or even habitual commercialistic instinct. There's no doubt that these do exist, even inside the strongest of wills.
The power of tradition in itself is a factor in play. This last week I tweeted:
Anyone who doubts the power and emotion that tradition can evoke, has never decorated a home for Christmas with kids.
— Dave Carrol (@davecarrol) November 21, 2014
This year when we opened our box of decorations, without any discussion, the kids instinctively put everything “where it goes.” Tacky Santa X and wacky snowman Y theoretically don’t “go” anywhere. But try to move them to a different place than they’ve traditionally been and Christmas will be all cattywampus somehow.
The Christmas story is kind of like that, but the hypnotic factor stems from something deeper. One of the groups of people we created The Living Nativity for, were the generation who haven’t made regular church attendance a cultural and familial absolute. We wanted to give an opportunity for people to reconnect with the Christmas they remember as a child in a broader community, engaging… and even entertaining context. It has become an opportunity for thousands to create a tangible Christmas tradition for their own kids or grandkids surrounding the “something deeper” of Christmas.
The line you’ll read on the Harmony Square banner and all of the Living Nativity posters is, “One family, one journey, one child that would change the world.” Whatever your belief about the deity of the man known as Jesus of Nazareth, you’d be hard-pressed to argue the impact his life has made on our planet. Each year during the Living Nativity, Freedom House’s Brian Beattie will tell the story of growing up hearing Johnny Cash sing a song called “Here was a Man.” It says,
“I think I'm well within the mark when I say that all of the armies that ever marched, all of the navies that ever sailed the seas, all of the legislative bodies that ever sat and all of the kings that ever reigned; all of them put together have not affected the life of man on this earth so powerfully as that one solitary life”
In fact it doesn’t take much in the “step back and look from 10,000ft” department to see that the seemingly ordinary, obscure and innocuous event of a birth into poverty that took place 2000 years ago in the Middle East; became the fulcrum of subsequent history. History has shown it to be a miraculous thing and we’re drawn into this powerful narrative at Christmas time.
For the estimated 2.8 billion Christians on our planet, it’s even more than just historically miraculous. It’s MIRACULOUS miraculous. CS Lewis challenged us to not only engage in this miraculous story but purposely decide how we are to react to it saying,
“Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.”
I personally subscribe to it’s infinite importance, and thus we once again share The Living Nativity with the city. But wherever you are on the journey of faith, Christmas can’t really be Christmas without engaging ourselves in the “something deeper” of the season. And let none of us be fooled about where that “something deeper” we all sense emanates from. Let’s engage in it together as a city Dec 12th-14th in Harmony Square. I hope to see you at the 5th annual Living Nativity.