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Asking the Clergy: How important is the Nativity story to Christianity?

From left, the Rev. Dr. Henrietta Scott Fullard,

From left, the Rev. Dr. Henrietta Scott Fullard, the Rev. Nicholas A. Zientarski and the Rev. William McBride Photo Credit: African Methodist Episcopal Churches; Diocese of Rockville Centre; Interfaith Community Religious Education Program

The Nativity of Jesus is celebrated Dec. 25. Accounts of the birth of Jesus are given in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke in the New Testament of the Bible. This week’s clergy discuss the significance of Jesus' Nativity to modern-day Christians.

The Rev. Henrietta Scott Fullard

Presiding elder, Long Island District, African Methodist Episcopal Churches

The Nativity story is the foundation of Christianity. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” The faith that we have as Christians is in a savior that was born to establish the existence of an eternal God. We believe in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

God allows us to be able to point to a being which is spirit and truth. Nothing can happen eternally except it be through a belief in the Nativity. Our focus must be centered and guided by this belief. God formed his son to be the basis of Christianity. All that we have and manifest is submitted through our confession of Jesus Christ. He lived the ministry that he has called us to follow. He suffered death on a cross so that our imperfect life and soul could find grace and forgiveness of our sins. He died that we might have salvation. He was buried, and on the third day, he arose with all power in his hands.

Christianity is named for Jesus Christ and that will always be our story throughout time and eternity.

The Rev. Nicholas A. Zientarski

Pastor, St. Christopher Roman Catholic Church, Baldwin; director, Office of Worship, Diocese of Rockville Centre.

While there can be no doubt that the passion, death and resurrection of Christ are the most important events of salvation history for Christians, all of these would not be possible without the Nativity — the birth of Jesus.

Christians believe that Jesus was no ordinary human being but fully divine and fully human, both the Son of God and the Son of Mary. Thus, he is a unique person unlike anyone else in human history. He was sinless, making himself the perfect person to reconcile the relationship between God and humanity, which was originally broken by the sin of Adam and Eve. By his entrance into human time and space, Jesus was able to reveal who God was to the world and ultimately show the love of God by his sacrifice on the cross. Were he only human, he would have been simply a great prophet. Were he only divine, we would have had yet another experience of the divine, but not the salvation of the human race. The Divine was born and dwelled among us.

Because of the Nativity, Jesus was able to offer himself on the cross for the salvation of the human race. Thus, it can be said for Christians that Jesus was truly born to save the world. That’s how important the Nativity is for Christians.

The Rev. William McBride

Religious director, Interfaith Community Religious Education Program, Brookville Multifaith Campus

The importance of the story of the Nativity is that it sets the tone for the Gospels, which guide Christian ways of living. In telling infancy narratives year after year, tones of surprising joy and childlike wonder along with constant vulnerability and looming disaster set the stage for the pits and peaks of the Christian drama.

The tradition of telling stories and singing songs associated with Christ's birth has brought a surprising spirit of hope and light to distressed people for centuries. Faithful and creative storytelling make the Nativity meaningful to our lives.

One of the most popular contemporary illustrations of this point is Linus' Christmas proclamation in the "Charlie Brown Christmas Story." Charlie Brown, having pondered his wilting Christmas tree, laments, "Everything I do turns into a disaster, I guess I really don't know what Christmas is all about." Then he cries, "Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?"

Linus walks to center stage removes thumb from mouth, drops the security blanket, faces the audience, and tells us what Christmas is all about. Linus' tone of profound innocence and steady confidence inspires us to take a deeper look into the disasters and wilting trees in our lives. Whatever form the narrative takes, at this time of the year, when the days get darker and darker, we have another chance to find guidance for life with this tale of light.

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