I went to the Radio City Christmas Spectacular last night. It's full of Santa, holiday songs, lights, dancing, and even 3-d images (with 3-d glasses). The show itself is a fun production to watch, but is it really a Christmas Spectacular? It depends on what you consider Christmas to be. If Christmas is about Santa and presents and snow, then the Christmas Spectacular represents the holiday quite well. If Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Jesus, then the Christmas Spectacular only gets it half right.
After all of the Rockettes, Santa, and holiday cheer, the stage gets dark, the music becomes somber and the cast portrays a living nativity scene. Initially, I was surprised to hear words from Isaiah and from the Gospels describing the birth of Jesus. Maybe they haven't forgotten the real meaning of Christmas after all! During the living nativity, the narration read is as follows:
He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another obscure village, where He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty. Then for three years, He was an itinerant preacher. Whenever had a family or owned a home. He never set foot inside a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place He was born. He never wrote a book or held an office. He did none of the things that usually accompany greatness. While He was still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against Him. His friends deserted Him. He was turned over to His enemies and went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves. While He was dying, his executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had-His coat. When He was dead, He was taken down and laid in a borrowed grave. Nineteen centuries have come an gone, and today He is the central figure for much of the human race. All the armies that ever marched, and all the navies that ever sailed, and all the parliaments that ever sat, and all the kings that ever reigned, put together have not affected the life of a man upon this earth as powerfully as this "One Solitary Life."
After listening to this narration, I couldn't help but think how depressing of a picture it paints. The man described in the paragraph became famous despite his humble upbringing. He influenced many even though he never traveled the world. He had fame and influence even though he had no possessions. And when he died, he was placed in a grave. But the paragraph aboves misses out on the reason this "man" had and continues to have such a powerful influence in human lives. If the story ends after Jesus died on the cross, there is no hope. Why would people continue to have such belief, why would we continue to celebrate his birth at Christmas and his death on Good Friday if there wasn't something more?
When the show was over, I turned to my roommate and said, "It does a pretty good job of telling the message of Christmas, but it didn't represent the message of Easter at all." The narration is missing the essential story that yes, Jesus died, but he also rose again. He conquered death because he is God. He was a sacrifice for all of our sins.
The PC-Living Nativity narration left out any mention of Jesus being God. In our society, Jesus can be a preacher, a teacher, and influential, but certainly not God. We can say Jesus' name in the presentation, but saying Jesus is God? Certainly that is crossing the line. The final song in the show is Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. However, the last (and in my opinion, best) verse of the hymn is left out:
Hail the heav'n born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris'n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"
I love Christmas time. I like the carols and the music and the cookies and the shopping and the tree and the lights and even the Christmas Spectacular. It usually isn't too hard for me to "Remember the reason for the season". Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus. I think what is harder for me to remember is why the birth of Jesus is important. Ultimately, that is the reason to celebrate. Celebrating Christmas is really a prelude to the celebration of Easter.
O holy night, the stars are brightly shining;
It is the night of the dear Savior's birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth
A thrill of hope, the weary soul rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees, O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born!
O night, O holy night, O night divine!