Some say that Christmas has become too commercialized. In some towns the display of decorated trees is now controversial. Confused about whether to say "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays". What about Kwanza, Hanukkah, and the Holy Days of Islam? Maybe a simple greeting of, "Peace to you, brother", would be appropriate.

Where do agnostics and atheists fit in — and others whose belief systems do not allow them to partake in the festivities. Often non-Christians feel disrespected during this season. It would help if everyone showed respect for everyone else's beliefs and non-beliefs. Kindness and humility require that no one impose his belief system on another.

What about the Christmas story — the virgin birth - the bright star in the East. Some people love it; others do not believe it. No matter what your stand on this controversy, the fact is that the Christmas story has always been a story about a homeless family being bullied by the government.

For those who do not believe details of the events in Bethlehem, there is an updated version of the Holiday story.

Think about the fable of Jose' and Maria. Forced out of their homeland by trade policies of the powerful government to the north, Jose' and Maria left their tiny village in search of a better life. They traveled in an old sputtering Buick. Their great hope was that they would find jobs and send money back to their families at home.


Jose' and Maria successfully crossed the border but found that there were no jobs for "people like them" — people without the proper documents.

Jose' was an experienced carpenter. He had helped build the big new Wal-mart in his native village. Now, because of the mortgage meltdown, no builders were hiring.

Maria was a nurse. She had worked in a hospital. Now she hoped for a job — any kind of job. Her heart was set on getting a housekeeping job at a Holiday Inn - back breaking work, but the promise of a paycheck gave the young couple reason to hope.

Jose' and Maria were running out of money. The transmission in their old car was making strange noises. The weather had turned cold. As they traveled north, they discussed their options. Should they try to make it to the Canadian border where they might be less likely to encounter I.C.E. officials? They could cross into Canada if the Vermont border was still unmanned, but they would need a miracle to make it that far north.

Maybe they should head for Florida. With a little luck they could pass themselves off as Cubans. Immigrants from Cuba are welcomed in the United States. Jose' and Maria often talked about how differently they were treated because they were Mexican and not Cuban. It wasn't their fault that they were born in Nuevo Lorado rather than Havana.

It was getting dark and cold. Now to add to the distress, Maria was feeling the first pangs of labor pains. They knew that they could not go to a hospital. They did not have enough money for a motel. Jose' made a sharp left hand turn and pulled into a truck stop. He parked along side of one of the big rigs.

A layer of snow now covered the ground. They had never seen snow before. Maria was fascinated by the peaceful beauty of the glittering flakes as they tumbled down in the beam of the large lights in the parking lot.

After a few hours, Maria's pain was getting unbearable. Tears were streaming down her cheeks as she moaned. Jose' was trembling with fear. He got out of the car and pounded on the door of the rig. After what seemed to be a long time, the door flung open. The largest man that Jose' had ever seen stood there. He was dressed in denim jeans and a rumpled plaid flannel shirt. His long gray beard seemed to be collecting snow flakes as he barked something that was unintelligible. Jose' pointed to his car.

Maria was now in the back seat. When the truck driver noticed the woman in the back of Jose's car, his mood changed. He immediately understood the problem. His stern voice softened. He mumbled something about being a Grandpa.

Maria was helped into the cab of the truck. The bed in the sleeper section behind the driver's seat was the site of the miracle. It was there that Maria gave birth to a beautiful baby. With the truck driver's help, Jose' swaddled the newborn in a blanket.

The young couple thanked their new friend for his help and they were on their way. No one is sure whether Jose' headed for Florida or drove north to the Canadian border.

It is rumored that on cold winter nights when the stars are shining brightly, the shadow of an old Buick is sometimes seen crossing the Vermont border at Derby Line into Quebec.

— Rosemarie Jackowski lives in Bennington