'Tis the season to be Jesus stealing? Away in a manger, no Christ for the bed? It has become a new Christmas fetish -- neutering Nativity scenes by jacking Jesus.
Just over the past week, dozens of mini-messiahs have been nabbed from Nativities across the country. Residences, churches and even civic displays in New York, Michigan, Nebraska, Indiana, Florida, Tennessee, Missouri, Illinois and Texas have been exploited by these Christmas scrooges.
And such criminal acts are not restricted to America, as a baby Jesus was smashed and then stolen at the 12th-century St. John's Church in Cardiff, Wales, and a beer was blasphemously left in its place.
To prevent further sacred thefts, thousands of churches and private residences are turning to technology to help them "save" Jesus. But when GPS devices have to be planted in the skulls of the Savior and security cameras have to guard the path of the three wise men, can't we see that society is a bit off-center?
Skeptics might mock these defacements as negligible crimes, but stealing the soul of Nativities is one more dismal sign of a culture gone awry. What type of world do we live in when hoodlums (young and old) commit sacrilege for entertainment?
So here's the hope. These distressing religious crimes probably won't decrease over the years, but no matter how often Christmas thugs try to pilfer Nativities, they can't take away the real Jesus of history.
Sure, cases have been made. Some hope he never existed. In a recent survey, 70 percent of Britons doubted the biblical story of the birth of Jesus. But rebutting such uncertainty as naive, Simon Gathercole, a scholar at Cambridge University, explained that people today are cynical because they don't realize the origins of Christianity are entrenched in real history. Gathercole admonished: "Jesus was born while Augustus was emperor of Rome, just before Herod died. … We're talking about events that are anchored in real history, not in ancient Greek myths."
Another British scholar, N.T. Wright, wrote that most opposing views of Jesus are simply pseudo-historical evaluations: "My argument from this point onward … will be that they have offered us a Jesus of their own imagination, which the church, and anyone else who may be interested ought to resist in the name of serious history."
Dr. Edwin Yamauchi -- a professor of history at Miami University, in Oxford, Ohio -- said: "The fact is that we have better historical documentation for Jesus than for the founder of any other ancient religion."