by:  Cris Corzine-McCloskey

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Our City Square looks and sounds heavenly! The decorations are so pretty, and they are playing Christmas music. I live close enough to hear the carols from my house. It’s all making me want to drink cocoa, wrap presents, and dress my dogs in the hats we got them from Southern Illinois Mercantile.

I am over the moon about our upcoming Very Merry Christmas Tour and Downtown Christmas event at the Square on Saturday the 14th. New Song’s tour, ice skating, and carriage rides, all on the same day at the same location. Are you kidding me?! Thank you, City of Marion!! I really love this town, especially this time of year.

It seems surreal, but just a few weeks ago, I was actually in the real city of Bethlehem visiting the church that was built on top of Jesus’ birthplace. It’s called The Church of the Nativity. It was ridiculously crowded, with lines that stretched for hours, but the church was dazzling. Over-the-top and built to impress, it had mosaic tiles made out of pure gold. Surrounding the church was vendors as far as the eye could see, selling nativity souvenirs. The “little town of Bethlehem” has been turned into a busy metropolis designed to sell trinkets to tourists.

Despite the church builders’ best efforts, it felt so far removed from Jesus. Somehow, His birth, life, and mission all got lost under the gold tiles and incense burners. The church was built for the right reason, but they got it all wrong. In their effort to honor Jesus, they turned His birthplace into an overcrowded roadside tourist attraction.

I looked at all the fanfare at The Church of the Nativity, and I allowed myself to enjoy it for the good things that were going on there. People from all over the world were gathered in one place. And most of us were being nice to each other. But I felt it had little to do with Jesus. It’s was just a typical example of man’s effort to commemorate something sacred. Jesus purposely chose to be born in a barn instead of a palace to show us the ways of humility. So what did we do? We built a palace over the barn. We are forever trying to shove Him into a box that makes us comfortable.

Somehow, the holiday designed to honor our humble Savior’s birth has been turned into something with silver, gold, reindeer, and elves. We are as far off track as the City of Bethlehem. But we Christians, trying to honor Him, sometimes push back against secularism in a way that doesn’t represent Him either. We bark at others about “the reason for the season” and get mad when people say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”

If that’s you, I respect your right to be in a bad mood about it. But as the Apostle Paul said, everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial. For me and my household, we will be enjoying the feeling of a community coming together and being kind to one another. I will relish each person who smiles and gives me a greeting, whether it involves the word “Christmas” or not. And I will love my neighbor, even when I don’t agree with them. I will also love you, even if I see you out there acting grinchy and muttering about the “reason for the season.” Sleep tight, O little town of Marion, because our Savior loves us enough to give us grace, even when we get it all wrong.



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