A Christmas without nativity scenes. Embracing my faith in a secular society

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I am holidaying with my family on The Gold Coast. We are staying in an apartment with spectacular views over the ocean. We have swum in the surf, laid on golden beaches, screamed with a mixture of fear and thrill on roller coasters at Movieworld, laughed ourselves hoarse as we share meals. We have dined and seen movies at Pacific Fair shopping centre, a massive complex that includes supermarkets, cinemas, food courts, restaurants, designer stores such as Gucci, and is beautifully decorated for Christmas.

Absent from all this is any reference to religion. There are simply no references to God in the public space. No cathedrals, no annoying street preachers, no nativity scenes in the shopping malls. By faith I apprehend the world as a temple, with the beauty of the sun, ocean and beaches pointing me to God, but that is something only seen through the eyes of faith.

The only visible sign of faith I have observed is the head coverings worn by Muslim women enjoying a day out with their families at Movieworld.

I am not in the hand-wringing brigade of Christians scandalised by the absence of nativity scenes or the presence of Muslims. I can see no reason why the temples of consumerism should nod toward a faith held by a minority of citizens. I love living in a country where it is our common humanity that sees people of no faith, Muslim faith, Christian faith, and other faiths not only living peacefully but expanding each other’s horizons as they interact.

I follow Jesus in a society that is now almost completely secular in its public expressions. It strikes me that in the absence of public symbols and rituals I need to find rituals that bring God, Christ and the lifestyle of Jesus-following into my everyday. Yet I belong to a stream of Christianity that has systematically rejected its daily rituals. I have long ago abandoned things such as the daily “quiet time” which had been tainted by legalism, and my church tradition doesn’t follow the church calendar. My Muslim friends have their head coverings and hours for prayer. I sense a need for Christians to find some new rituals for daily living or to reinvest in some old ones, lest we find faith swallowed up by secularism.

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5 Comments on "A Christmas without nativity scenes. Embracing my faith in a secular society"

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Andrew D
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Personally I find this a very sad article Scott. Christmas, for me, represented in part and in moments by a cheap plastic “manger”, a child at Kindy doing a dodgy but exceptionally cute job of being a shepherd or angel, a kid getting the front end job of the donkey with the kid drawing the short straw being the back end, a flashing “Star of David” lighting up a secular store, Churches with their sometimes good sometimes ordinary attempts at an outreach ministry via a cheap sign on a star picket on the Church’s nature strip, Christmas trees going up… Read more »
Scott Higgins
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Hi Andrew,
I am not arguing that it is a good thing that the Christian Christmas story is no longer celebrated in our public spaces. Just acknowledging the reality that it’s not.

Andrew D
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You wrote Scott “I can see no reason why the temples of consumerism should nod toward a faith held by a minority of citizens” – Yet they do. You appeared very OK with that. I respect your position but I see differently. I would miss the continuing trend towards the abandonment of the symbols of traditional Christmas in the weird, imperfect, superficial ways they are sometimes presented. It’s part of an ever increasing trend to eliminate Christ from “open spaces” – like the move towards “Happy Holidays” not “Happy Christmas”. I love that the most robust critics of this are… Read more »
Fay Magee
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Lack of reference to ‘God’ does not make the scenario god-less! I think the main challenge is to know how ‘culture’ has effected Christians in negative ways and to do something about that.

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