The residents of Elmira, New York, understand what Jesus meant when he instructed his followers to turn the other cheek in Luke 6:29.
When homeless man Daniel Peterson-Green set a fire that destroyed the town’s Nativity scene early Tuesday morning, the community did more than grieve the loss of a popular and beloved tradition.
It recognized the irony of a homeless man, cold in the night, next to a depiction of Mary and Joseph, who had no place to stay, as reported by the Elmira StarGazette. And it sprung into action.
While Peterson-Green is in jail, charged with a felony, the community has responded by encouraging people to bring coats, blankets and mittens Friday when the temporary replacement for the Nativity scene is unveiled.
Local business leader Michael Wayne told TheBlaze, “When you think about the story of the Nativity, it’s all about Mary and Joseph going and not having a place to stay.”
“Unfortunately, that same situation occurred to a young man in our community last night,” Wayne added. “We’re certainly not condoning what happened, but it gives us a point of irony to think about that this continues today.”
“What we’re trying to do is try to make awareness of people that are homeless and that are in need and take this tragic event and turn it into something really positive,” Elmira Mayor Daniel Mandell explained. “This will be one way we can do that, by getting clothing and coats so that we can hand them out to people who will really need it with the upcoming winter weather.”
An anonymous community member quickly put a small Nativity scene in the charred circle where the 50-year old attraction had been, according to TWC News in Binghamton. Elmira Downtown Development will also raise funds for a new Nativity scene, to be unveiled in 2017.
“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40)
That’s the true holiday spirit.
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