The grandchildren live out of town, a safe distance away. However, Christmastime requires a drive to see them, along with their folks.
The upcoming Christmas trip will include a drive by the town square there. I’ve got to see the Christmas crèche that was adored, then despised, then sheepishly accepted back with some conditions.
You’ve heard and read of stories like this. Last Christmas in the grandchildren’s hometown they would not put up a traditional manger scene that had been displayed at the town hall for 40 years. The town got hit with a threat of a lawsuit from an out-of-state outfit, the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation.
Each Christmas season the crèche had been in a nice, park-like court square in the middle of the town of Dallas, near Charlotte.
But when the town got a warning letter, they banished the crèche, which was picked up by a car-repair garage and displayed on a side street, much as the original Christmas family was banished to a Bethlehem stable.
In protest, crèche lovers last Christmas staged their own a live manger scene on the court square with more than 100 turning out to watch.
The stink led the town board to put a manger scene back up this Christmas, with the threat of lawsuit still hanging over its head. In an effort to try and make everyone happy, they put alongside the baby Jesus and the Magi, a Santa, a snowman, deer and holiday carolers.
In this season of peace on earth, good will to men, men continue to find ways to stir conflict. We even had our own spat earlier this year at Elkin Town Hall over displaying the national motto.
I first heard of the Dallas drama two nights before we viewed a TV movie that almost was a carbon copy of the real thing.
In the movie “The Greatest Gift,” the hero — a character modeled after Christ — made an impassioned speech at a town board meeting in support of a church’s crèche that been deemed in violation of an ordinance.
A crowd, slowly at first for dramatic effect, began walking up and pitching in money to pay a fine so the manger scene could stay.
Christmas, in the grand scheme of things, has always stirred controversy. It began in classical times as a Christian alternative to a pagan celebration of the passing of the winter solstice. I’m not privy to news reports from that time, but I suspect there was some familiar disputes then, too.
Through the centuries Christmas has been attacked by the faithful for its pagan roots and by antagonists seeking to censor or snuff out the celebration of Christ.
That Christmas arouses such passion is a testament to its eminence among so many. Such struggles over Christmas just makes it more precious for those of us who love it so.
So as we adore the cute kids and adults dressed up for their Christmas plays, as we enjoy the crèches and other decorations hither and yon, let us not neglect honoring the original characters in the first Christmas.
And let us not forget to honor those who have sought — and struggled — to keep the legacy alive for 21 centuries.
Let us seek peace on earth and good will among men.
Stephen Harris returned home to live in State Road.