Joseph Pronechen is staff writer with the National Catholic Register since 2005 and before that a regular correspondent for the paper. His articles have appeared in a number of national publications including Columbia magazine, Soul, Faith and Family, Catholic Digest, and Marian Helper. His religion features have also appeared in Fairfield County Catholic and in major newspapers. He is the author of Fruits of Fatima — Century of Signs and Wonders. He holds a graduate degree and formerly taught English and courses in film study that he developed at a Catholic high school in Connecticut. Joseph and his wife Mary reside on the East Coast.
It’s never too early to talk about Christmas in a non-commercial way, like how and why to receive a free large Nativity display. Yes, F-R-E-E. Think of it as an early Christmas present.
First, the “Why.”
“We are seriously committed to our goal of keeping Christ in Christmas,” declares Ed O’Malley, president of the American Nativity Scene which partners with the Thomas More Society to provide these Nativity scenes.
The non-profit organizations based in Chicago got together to keep “Christ in Christmas” by co-sponsoring this free Nativity scene to private citizens or groups. All the recipients have to do is display the crèche scene this season in a designated or traditional public forum, either inside or outside their state capitol. Farther from the capitol venues can be city hall, on their lawns, for example, or in some other highly visible, heavily traveled location on public property.. maybe a library, town square.
The large figures — the Holy Family with the Baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, plus an Angel announcing the birth of our Savior — are, to repeat, Free. High-quality figures, no less. You read right: No cost. Including shipping. All compliments of a generous anonymous benefactor of the American Nativity Scene who pays the entire costs for this effort that’s all about honoring the true meaning of Christmas — the birth of Christ. In public. All legally. All that’s necessary is for people to sponsor the display. More on the simple way to do that in a minute.
The American Nativity Scene aims to see this as a reality in all 50 states. It can, leaders say, if a small group in each state imitates our country’s founders and speak up for their right to religious freedom.
We know that every year we see many attacks on Christmas by those who want to ban any religious expression from the public square. This is a way to counter that, and all in a legal way already decided by the courts, by bringing these Nativity scenes to as many public squares as possible during the Christmas season.
The American Nativity Scene was founded to counter these attacks on religious freedom with a different message, a message of love and hope, in the Nativity scenes.
Tom Brejcha, the Thomas More Society president and chief counsel, said in a statement that “we will not be silent as it is critical that Christians proclaim the Gospel message to their fellow citizens.” It’s a message contrasting with these other groups because it’s “the positive, uplifting, hopeful and joyous message of Christmas.”
The pro-bono legal work by the Thomas More Society makes sure these privately funded religious displays on public property are accorded their right to do so as guaranteed by the 1st and 14th Amendments of the United States Constitution. The society affirms, “A permanent federal injunction banning discrimination against religious speech ensures that the Christmas crèches are protected from erroneous applications of the widely misunderstood concept of ‘separation of church and state.’”
American Nativity Scene founder Jim Finnegan explained, “It’s all about free speech. We have seen those who hate Christmas attempt to end all efforts to celebrate it.”
The Constitution’s right to free speech guarantees that any person or group can share this Good News of Jesus’ birth in the same locations and sites that host political rallies and protests.
Any person or group applying for this free Nativity set simply has to agree to provide the manger setting, which isn’t difficult. They also have to get the proper permits and hold a scheduled celebration where the Nativity scene is located. The American Nativity Scene explains that a private Nativity scene committee (which needs be only a tiny group, from 3-5), has to form to obtain the permit, put the scene together, and have some kind of special event when the Nativity scene is ready. After the Christmas season is over, they must store the Nativity scene. These requirements are not difficult. The American Nativity Scene gives all the details.
To help with putting up the wooden manger for the scene, the American Nativity Scene even provides the dimensions and all the specifics necessary for those building the simple manger or enlisting a handyman to help. If no one in the group is handy, the American Nativity Scene even suggests where such a manger might be purchased. Everything from application to display from start to finish is made very simple with the step-by-step guide provided.
Simple to Apply
This year’s deadline to apply for a free Nativity set is Nov. 15. It’s easy to apply at the American Nativity Scene website.
Join all those who already are displaying these Nativity scenes in a few hundred places across the country. During the 2018 Christmas Season the partners successfully placed Nativity Scenes in many town centers, courthouses, city halls, parks and yet another state capitol. Places getting the Nativity sets ranged from Santa Cruz, California and Walla Walla, Washington by the West coast to Niagara Falls in the East. That state capitol was in Columbia, South Carolina.
Some of the other 20 state capitol buildings and public places displaying the crèches were in Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin and in the Oklahoma governor’s mansion.
Teo more state capitols added for this year are Bismarck, North Dakota and Honolulu, Hawaii.
“The Christmas message highlights the hope and miracle of birth and new life, the inherent dignity of each human being,” Brejcha elaborated. “The infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger amidst straw and animals is honored by shepherds and kings and heralded by choirs of angels. No matter how rich or poor, humble or high-stationed, that essential equality represented by the Christ Child resonates deeply with all Americans.”
You can get in on the act by obtaining and displaying this free Nativity set from the American Nativity Scene whose goal is to honor the true meaning of Christmas — the birth of Christ — in the public square.