In response to a shopping mall in Scotland banning a nativity scene, a group of young Christians decided to stage their own. In the end, the mall reversed the ban.
As reported by LifeSiteNews, the management of the Thistles Centre mall in Stirling initially rejected a nativity display requested by the Catholic Legion of Mary, stating that such a display would violate its religiously “neutral” position.
“Thistles prides itself on being religiously and politically neutral in its behaviour,” said a spokesman. “With this in mind, we do not feel it would be right to host this type of promotion in a shopping centre.”
The decision was met with pushback from religious groups. The Catholic Archdiocese of St. Andrews and Edinburgh described the decision as being “a little Grinch-like.” A spokesman for the Church of Scotland criticized the decision in stronger terms, stating, “When a shopping centre can focus purely on commercialism to the exclusion of the reason for the celebration of Christmas, it is a sad day for all of us.”
Amid the growing backlash, two young Christians, John Mallon, 27, of Glasgow and Elena Feick, 30, decided to dress up as Joseph and Mary to stage their own nativity scene at Thistles Centre. See video:
Mallon, who played Joseph, told LifeSiteNews that shoppers overwhelmingly appreciated the scene and welcomed them. “It was fun,” he said. “It was terrific to be there and share our faith.”
“The shoppers loved us,” he continued. “No objections from shoppers.”
Even the mall Santa appreciated the scene and gave them a smile. “Upstaging good old St. Nick,” said Mallon. “But he seemed to welcome us and be jolly.”
The pair reiterated that they simply wanted to share the true meaning of Christmas in the public square, where their faith is being constantly “undermined.”
On Wednesday, following the strong show of support for a living nativity scene within the mall, the Thistles Centre announced that they would allow the Legion of Mary to display the scene.
“We’ve listened carefully to everyone who contacted us about the installation and have decided to reverse our original decision,” the mall’s management said. “We have offered Mrs. Patterson the opportunity to host a nativity scene at the centre this Sunday in line with her original request and we are delighted that she has accepted.”
Mallon said the reversal of fortune is simply a “Christmas miracle.”
“It’s a Christmas miracle,” he told LifeSiteNews via social media. “What great news! The real reason for the season!”
Mallon invited all shoppers at the Thistles Centre to visit the scene. “If you are shopping in Thistles Shopping centre this Advent, why not pay a visit to the Crib and share your picture with us to spread the peace and joy of the Christmas season to all,” he said.
The Scotsman reported that the Archdiocese of St. Andrews & Edinburgh was equally celebratory over Thistle Centre’s show of “generosity and inclusivity.”
“The management of the Thistles Centre, along with owners Standard Life Investments, are to be commended and congratulated for listening to the general public and responding with such generosity and inclusivity, recognizing that contemporary Scotland should be a place that both respects and upholds religious liberty in the public square,” an archdiocesan spokesman said. “We wish the management, staff and shoppers at Thistles a very happy and very peaceful Christmas indeed.”