A story from Oceanside about Lighthouse Church in a fight with a homeowners’ association hit the news a few days ago. The Lighthouse nativity scene was removed from their property without their knowledge or consent. The HOA claimed that the nativity scene was on their property, not the church’s. The church has not backed down. They contacted the press, held a vigil, and are keeping pressure on the situation so they can continue with what this author believes is their 1st amendment right. My position, of course, depends on the ownership of the property. Even a church does not have the right to construct a nativity scene on someone else’s land. But it appears when a repair needed to be made, the HOA claimed the disputed territory belonged to the Church. The HOA cannot have it both ways.
Do you find it ironic, as I do, that Mary and Joseph were forced to go to Bethlehem because of a government edict and now our local government may get involved in resolving this dispute of a wood cut-out of Mary, Joseph and Jesus in a make-shift stable for a home. Had the original edict not occurred, our nativity scenes would look different. Maybe an edict in Oceanside will have some lasting effect.
Lighthouse has done many things right. If this happened to Saint John’s, I would urge the parish to follow Jesus’ parable about being persistent. In it, a widow demanded justice. Every day she’d appear in court and demand justice from an unjust judge. The judge finally gave her what she wanted for no other reason than her persistence. The story is perhaps more distinctive because of the actions the widow did not take, like violence or name calling. I’d like to see Lighthouse make one nativity scene for each day of the season. If one is removed, the next day a new one would arrive. Or how about this: create a living nativity scene with live actors and animals. Persistence can build God’s kingdom. Instead of freaking out about a large, corporate retail company that instructs employees to say Happy Holidays, Christian persistence would simply reply, “Thank you, and may you have a blessed Christmas.” As retailers eat up more and more of the Christmas spirit with consumerism, the persistent Christian reminds him or herself of the true meaning of the season. We will receive peace upon peace and blessings upon blessings when we pause to give glory to God for the birth of the Savior of the World.