This is a story I post here once a year, because the message is timeless. Grab your chocolate or eggnog and find a cozy place by the fire. It's time for Unca Mike to tell you...
The Parable of the Creche
When first I came to Roxborough, some forty years ago, the creche as already a tradition of long standing. Every year it appeared in Gorgas Park during the Christmas season. It wasn't all that big--maybe seven feet high at the tip of the roof--nor was it very fancy. The figures of Joseph and Mary, the Christ Child, and the animals were a couple of feet tall at most, and there were sheets of Plexiglas over the front of the wooden structure to keep people from walking off with them. But there was a painted backdrop of the hills of Bethlehem at night, the floor was strewn by real straw, and the neighborhood people genuinely loved it.
It was a common thing to see people standing before the creche, especially families and especially at night, admiring it. Sometimes parents brought their small children to see it for the first time nd the wonder they displayed then was moving. It provided a welcome touch of seasonality and community to the park.
Alas, Gorgas Park is public property, and it was only a matter of time before somebody complained that the creche violated the principle of separation of church and state. When the complaint finally came, the creche was taken out of the park and put in storage.
People were upset, of course. Nobody likes seeing a beloved tradition die. There was a certain amount of grumbling and disgruntlement. One might even say disgrumblement.
So the kindly folks of Leverington Presbyterian Church, located just across the street from the park, stepped in. They adopted the creche and put it up in the yard in front of their church, where it could be seen and enjoyed by all.
But did this make up happy? It did not. The creche was just not the same located in front of a church. It seemed lessened, in some strange way, made into a prop for the Presbyterians. You don't see people standing in front of it anymore.
I was in a local tappie shortly after the adoption and heard one of the barflies holding forth on this very subject:
"The god-damned Christians," he said, "have hijacked Christmas."