December 24, 2010

I confess! I'm not really ready for Christmas, but I never have been in the last twenty or so years, so what's new. But I am ready for the meaning of Christmas!

I learned how to be ready for the Christmas message back in the early 80s, when I was ministering to a little church in Maryland.  In this congregation was a young single man by the name of Marty Coffey. When we had Sunday Evening Services and opened up the "request line" for songs to sing, Marty would always request a Christmas hymn.  In fact, the only time he didn't request something with a Christmas theme was between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  The reason, he said, was so that we would not forget the reason for the season that will surely come our way soon. Even on Washington's birthday or Palm Sunday, to Marty, the celebration of the birth of Christ was coming soon!

I started listening to Christmas music just before Halloween this year, if only to get an early start to the holiday shopping that needed to be done. Notice I said "holiday"?

That's what we have grown accustomed to hearing in the last twenty or so years: "holiday"! Maybe that explains why I have a hard time getting ready for Christmas. If I could only convert my environment back to seeing Christmas as a holy day, instead of a holiday!

This time of year always seems to bring great joy as well as great stress. There is often too much to do, too much to eat, too much to drink, too little sleep and too much family. It's easy to get caught up in the holiday frenzy and forget the meaning and value behind the holidays -- the holy days.

It's time to take a break.

Last week, while listening to a Christmas CD by Mannheim Steamroller, I was reminded of the importance of delving deeper into the spirit of the season rather than focusing on the holiday. From their second Christmas recording, A Fresh Aire Christmas, Mannheim's Oh Holy Night, back my senses back to the notion that indeed December 25 is about a holy day. 

Our culture is steeped in secularism that runs the gamut from seeking to do away with Christian signs, symbols and songs about the babe in Bethlehem to the silencing of the Christmas message in simply greetings while out shopping.  Our society, indeed, our whole culture is hell-bent on making this time of year just  a holiday. The main goal of the secular-progressive agenda is to eradicate Judeo-Christian values.

But Judeo-Christian values are foundational to our nation.

One of my favorite presidents was and still is considered the Enigma of the White House. The Silent man from Vermont, Calvin Coolidge, gave a speech in honor of the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence addressed this foundation. "(T)he Declaration was the result of the religious teachings of the preceding period ... the texts, the sermons, and the writings of the early colonial clergy who were earnestly undertaking to instruct their congregations in the great mystery of how to live. They preached equality because they believed in the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. They justified freedom by the text that we are all created in the divine image, all partakers of the divine spirit."

Coolidge referred often to the Founding Fathers as "ambassadors of Providence." He understood that God was involved in the founding of our nation. In my recent book, "The Essential American: 25 documents and Speeches Every American Should Own" (Regnery, 2010), which includes this speech by Coolidge, I explained that this understanding "gave him a different perspective; that our nation was born from the spirit, not the man."

We need to understand that it is the spirit of our people that sustains our nation. We must take care of our spirits to ensure our nation is strong.

Coolidge understood that "The American Revolution represented the informed and mature convictions of a great mass of independent, liberty-loving, God-fearing people who knew their rights, and possessed the courage to dare to maintain them."

Coolidge believed that this spiritual foundation helped create our nation, and the lack of such a foundation would lead to our nation's demise. "If this apprehension of the facts be correct, and the documentary evidence would appear to verify it, then certain conclusions are bound to follow. A spring will cease to flow if its source be dried up; a tree will wither if its roots be destroyed."

The things of the spirit come first," Coolidge says in his close. "Unless we cling to that, all our material prosperity, overwhelming though it may appear, will turn to a barren sceptre in our grasp. If we are to maintain the great heritage, which has been bequeathed to us, we must be like-minded as the fathers who created it. We must not sink into a pagan materialism. We must cultivate the reverence which they had for the things that are holy. We must follow the spiritual and moral leadership which they showed. We must keep replenished, that they may glow with a more compelling flame, the altar fires before which they worshiped."

This fundamental spiritual foundation provides us with optimism. If we believe that God can do anything, then our imagination allows us to picture in our minds what might be possible not by us, but by God working through us. We can envision a better future than might be possible through our own means.

This holiday, pause a minute to take a breath, and focus on the holy day. With this thought in mind, I wish you and yours a Very Merry Christmas, and yes, I said "CHRISTMAS"!

We believe that the Constitution of the United States speaks for itself. There is no need to rewrite, change or reinterpret it to suit the fancies of special interest groups or protected classes.