Nativity Scene as it appeared last year on lawn on the east side of the Lincoln County Courthouse.
Wayne Howard Staff Writer
Will there be no Nativity Scene on the Courtsquare this year? Several of those who attended the annual Tree Lighting ceremony Sunday evening (Nov. 25th) expressed concern that the big apple that has been secured for a New Year's Eve celebration might be replacing the manger scene. Some of them were confused, believing that either the City or the County was responsible for the Nativity Scene and had decided not to have it this year.
Truth is: neither the City nor the County have ever been involved with the placement of the Nativity Scene on the Square. It has been placed there for several years by Alan Hoyle, who ran an unsuccessful campaign for Sheriff this year.
Hoyle has applied each year (but not this year) for a permit to place the manger scene on the Courthouse lawn.
The County has so far avoided the kind of controversy that developed in Dallas four years ago. The town got a letter from a group which objected to the presence of the religious symbol on the lawn of a publicly owned facility. Rather than face a potential battle in court, the town decided to move the scene down the street.
The owner of an auto repair shop at the corner of North Oakland Street (Philadelphia Church Road) and West Trade agreed to put the nativity scene on his lawn, only a block away from its former location. The move sparked protests from many area residents and some of them protested by holding demonstrations on the weekends preceding Christmas on the Historic Courthouse lawn. The story was reported in area newspapers, on Charlotte television stations, and eventually it was picked up by national media.
The following year, the town decided to put a new manger scene on the Historic Courthouse lawn--but they added a snowman and a Santa Claus to the display. A manger scene has been on the square in Dallas each year since.
In 2015, Hoyle put up the Nativity Scene as he had before, but he added a sign in the back of the scene that caused some controversy. After County Manager Kelly Atkins got complaints about the sign, Cecelia Martin, then chair of the County Commissioners, asked Hoyle if he would remove the sign. He agreed to remove it.
That same Fall, Atkins got an inquiry from a non-Christian group called Wicca about having a display on the Courtsquare. They were told that Hoyle had already asked for the holiday season that year, but they could make an application for another time. They asked for and were sent an application but nothing further has come of their inquiry.
Hoyle and I have some doctrinal differences of opinion, but we agree on one thing: that the first and foremost reason for Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth.
The religious holiday has, of course, become a secular holiday as well. We've adopted many customs that came from pagan, folk and secular traditions--among them the Christmas tree and Santa Claus. Still, the Nativity Scene seems to us most appropriate--and appreciated.
Hoyle, having lost in his bid for Sheriff, wasn't present in the Lincolnton Christmas Parade this year. In previous years, long before he announced he was running for Sheriff, he had marched the streets before the Christmas Parade and other parades using an amplified megaphone to preach as he walked.
He says his reason for not having erected the Nativity Scene this year is that nobody gave him any help and he decided if they didn't care, he'd celebrate Christmas without putting up the scene.
If you believe the Nativity Scene is important and would like to help him put it there, you can contact him at 704-732-3011. Perhaps if he does not, one of our churches will decide to apply for a permit and put a Nativity Scene on the Square.
I personally don't object to Santa Claus, Christmas trees, parades and parties and all the other activities that have become a part of the seasonal celebration, but I agree with those who maintain that "Jesus is the reason for the season."
I hope we'll have a Nativity Scene back as a centerpiece in Lincolnton soon.
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