What is the true message of Christmas?
Isaiah 9:6-7 says it all . . .
For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government
Will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Mighty God, Everlasting Father,
Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of
His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David
And over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it
With judgment and justice
From that time forward
The zeal of the Lord of hosts
Will perform this.
Merry Christmas . . .
To One . . .
And ALL . . . .
YouTube Video: “Hallelujah” by Mannheim Steamroller:
Photo credit here
It’s now seven days before Christmas and as I was looking for a bit of Christmas cheer to post, I ran across a version of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” (source here) that brought a smile to my face. See if you don’t agree:
‘Twas The Night Before Christmas
Whereas, on or about the night prior to Christmas, there did occur at a certain improved piece of real property (hereinafter “the House”) a general lack of stirring by all creatures therein, including, but not limited to, a mouse.
A variety of foot apparel, e.g. stocking, socks, etc., had been affixed by and around the chimney in said House in the hope and/or belief that St. Nick a/k/a/ St. Nicholas a/k/a/ Santa Claus (hereinafter “Claus”) would arrive at sometime thereafter.
The minor residents, i.e. the children, of the aforementioned House, were located in their individual beds and were engaged in nocturnal hallucinations, i.e. dreams, wherein vision of confectionery treats, including, but not limited to, candies, nuts and/or sugar plums, did dance, cavort and otherwise appear in said dreams.
Whereupon the party of the first part (sometimes hereinafter referred to as “I”), being the joint-owner in fee simple of the House with the party of the second part (hereinafter “Mamma”), and said Mamma had retired for a sustained period of sleep.
At such time, the parties were clad in various forms of headgear, e.g. kerchief and cap. Suddenly, and without prior notice or warning, there did occur upon the unimproved real property adjacent and appurtenant to said House, i.e. the lawn, a certain disruption of unknown nature, cause and/or circumstance.
The party of the first part did immediately rush to a window in the House to investigate the cause of such disturbance. At that time, the party of the first part did observe, with some degree of wonder and/or disbelief, a miniature sleigh (hereinafter the “Vehicle”) being pulled and/or drawn very rapidly through the air by approximately eight (8) reindeer.
The driver of the Vehicle appeared to be and in fact was, the previously referenced Claus. Said Claus was providing specific direction, instruction and guidance to the approximately eight (8) reindeer and specifically identified the animal co-conspirators by name: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder and Blitzen (hereinafter the “Deer”). Upon information and belief, it is further asserted that an additional co-conspirator named Rudolph may have been involved.
The party of the first part witnessed Claus, the Vehicle and the Deer intentionally and willfully trespass upon the roofs of several residences located adjacent to and in the vicinity of the House, and noted that the Vehicle was heavily laden with packages, toys and other items of unknown origin or nature.
Suddenly, without prior invitation or permission, either express or implied, the Vehicle arrived at the House, and Claus entered said House via the chimney. Said Claus was clad in a red fur suit, which was partially covered with residue from the chimney, and he carried a large sack containing a portion of the aforementioned packages, toys, and other unknown items.
He was smoking what appeared to be tobacco in a small pipe in blatant violation of local ordinances and health regulations. Claus did not speak, but immediately began to fill the stocking of the minor children, which hung adjacent to the chimney, with toys and other small gifts. (Said items did not, however, constitute “gifts” to said minor pursuant to the applicable provisions of the U.S. Tax Code.)
Upon completion of such task, Claus touched the side of his nose and flew, rose and/or ascended up the chimney of the House to the roof where the Vehicle and Deer waited and/or served as “lookouts.” Claus immediately departed for an unknown destination. However, prior to the departure of the Vehicle, Deer and Claus from said House, the party of the first part did hear Claus state and/or exclaim:
“Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!”
Or words to that effect. (Quote source here.)
Ho Ho Ho, Merry Christmas to all . . .
And to all . . .
A Good Night. . . .
YouTube Video: “Christmas Extraordinaire” by Mannheim Steamroller (Full Album–45 Minutes):
Two of the most universally recognized portions of Scripture in the Bible are The Lord’s Prayer, and Psalm 23. The Lord’s Prayer is actually tucked in the middle of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, and it is how Jesus taught folks back then (and those of us today through his teachings in the Bible) how to pray. Jesus’ instructions are found in Matthew 6:5-15 (NKJV):
The Model Prayer
And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.
Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. In this manner, therefore, pray:
Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power
And the glory forever.
For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
The key to answered prayer, of course, is held in our ability to forgive those who have done harm to us in some way (as in trespasses or debtors). Trespass is defined as “an unlawful act causing injury to the person, property, or rights of another, committed with force or violence, actual or implied” (quote source here); and debtor is defined as “a person who is in debt or under financial obligation to another” (quote source here).
(A Psalm of David)
The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down
in green pastures;
He leads me beside
the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths
For His name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley
of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy
shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell
in the house of the Lord
Like millions of others down through the ages up through today, I memorized both The Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 23 many years ago, but I have to say that their meaning and power did not become clear to me until these past seven plus years as I have traversed through one of the toughest times in my entire life since I lost my job in Houston back in April 2009. And they have become as much a part of me as breathing.
The other day I ran across a new book, the subject of which happens to be on both The Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 23. The book is titled, “21 Seconds to Change Your World” (2016) by Dr. Mark Rutland, who is “a missionary, evangelist, ordained minister of the International Ministerial Fellowship, and founder and president of Global Servants and the National Institute of Christian Leadership. He also currently serves on the preaching team at Jentezen Franklin’s Free Chapel. Dr. Rutland was the third President of Oral Roberts University, and prior to Oral Roberts University he served as President of Southeastern University for ten years. Additionally he has served as Pastor of Calvary Assembly of God in Orlando, Florida, and as an Associate Pastor at Mount Paran Church of God in Atlanta, Georgia. Dr. Rutland is also a New York Times bestselling author and he has written numerous books to include “ReLaunch” (2013) and this latest offering, “21 Seconds to Change Your World” (2016). (Source: here and from the back book cover).
This book describes a ten-year period of time in Dr. Rutland’s life when, as he explains in Chapter 1 titled, “How The Lord’s Prayer Saved My Life,” he had fallen into a well of “fatigue, toxic success, and, subsequently, depression that had subverted my soul” (p. 17). On pages 19-20, Dr. Rutland explains:
Over the course of those painful years, nearly ten years, where I prayed the Lord’s Prayer like a drowning man, I added to my daily saturation in that prayer an ancient song, or perhaps a poem, written not by a Jewish rabbi but by a Jewish king. David, Israel’s greatest and most complicated king, wrote the poem a thousand years before Jesus of Nazareth was born. Today Jews and Gentiles alike still use the poem devotionally. It is called the Twenty-third Psalm.
I began with the Lord’s Prayer, then later mixed in the Twenty-third Psalm. Prayed back to back, over and over and over again, dozens of times a day, they became the lifeline that hauled me up from the pit and put my feet in a broad place. They were medicine and life and health to me. They became the recipe of the divine. Now, all these years later, I still pray them together, time after time, every single day of my life. Praying them together so often, hundreds, perhaps thousands of times over these years, I began to see how beautifully the Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 23 fit together. they are gears that interlock gently, perfectly, never grinding, turning the human soul toward the healing for which it yearns. Seen, prayed, and laid out side by side, the parallel splendor of the two is absolutely miraculous.
Come with me now. Let me introduce you or, more likely, reintroduce you to my beloved friends, the Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 23. Of course, they are not my friends alone. They have brought healing power to millions for centuries. I invite you to meet them, or meet them again, and come to know them more intimately, perhap more fully, then you ever have before. (Quote source: “21 Seconds to Change Your World,” pp. 19-20).
In my own life over these past several years, the combination of praying The Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 23 (not as a matter of rote memory but as an intimate connection to God) just sort of “happened” from the hard place I found myself in after going through a massive job hunt of several years standing, and yet it seemed as if the doors of heaven remained closed to me (actually, slammed shut) as far as finding another job. While in Dr. Rutland’s case it was depression caused from fatigue and toxic success that had all but consumed his life at that time, it has not been a case of depression in my own life. Rather, it is an intense exasperation at not being able to understand what, exactly, was (and still is) standing in the way of me not being able to find another job. After all, I had never had a hard time find working in my entire life until I encountered that job in Houston that I ended up losing in April 2009, a scant seven months after it began in late September 2008. Also, a seven-month job, regardless of any reason for losing it–in and of itself–should not have ended a successful twenty-year career in my professional field of work.
Well, if you’re a regular reader of my blog you know my story. And the point of this blog post is not a recounting of my story. I have to say I was delighted to find this book that combines a heartfelt study of the Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 23 together as I know what it has meant in my own life to pray both in combination more times then I can count over these past several years.
“21 Seconds to Change Your World” is a treasure trove of information on the history of the Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 23, and despite what some of my readers may be thinking (possibly “how boring, right?”), Dr. Rutland has a wonderful way of making them come alive in a way that most folks familiar with both passages have never given thought to beyond the cursory or rote reading/praying of each passage.
The book is divided into three parts. The first part is titled, “The Journey Begins,” and includes three chapters titled, “How the Lord’s Prayer saved my life,” “Life-changing words: The Rabbi’s Prayer and the King’s Poem,” and “A brief history of Jesus and David.” The second part is titled, “The Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 23,” and contains Chapters 4-19, where Dr. Rutland takes each passage, line by line and sometimes combined together, using rich histories of both Jesus and David to bring to life each line of both passages in a way I have never read before in other books on this subject.
The third and final part is titled, “To Change Your World,” which contains the final five chapters on saturation prayer, meditational prayer, congregational prayer, inner healing, and benediction, plus Appendix A: One Night With the Good Shepherd; and Appendix B: The Lord’s Prayer in various languages.
Mark Batterson, a New York Times bestselling author and lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, DC., states the following in his forward at the beginning of Dr. Rutland’s book on pp. 9-11:
If I had to teach one message over and over and over again, it would be how to pray. The good news is that the best teacher in the history of mankind made it really easy for people like me to teach this message. Thousands of years ago Jesus gave us a template; we call it “The Lord’s Prayer.”
Thus “21 Seconds to Change Your World,” with it’s strangely simple and wildly profound message, was born. This book is bold. This book is vulnerable. This book is revolutionary. By combining two ancient poems, Dr. Rutland has given us a compass for our intellect and our spirituality that is both universal and sufficient. In the Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 23, everything that you might feel needs to be said when you pray is said beautifully–whether it’s solitarily or congregationally.
I’ve always said that I believe we are all only one prayer away from a totally different life. But Dr. Rutland has taken it a step further. It’s exactly 21 seconds. That is not a long time to completely revolutionize your world. . . .
It you ask me what I pray for more than anything else, the answer is hands-down the favor of God. While it’s difficult to describe or define, the favor of God is what God can do for you that you cannot do for yourself. Asking for a better way to pray is a prayer that can and should be prayed. It’s funny that prayer is one of the most difficult and simplest things to do every single day. Sometimes, though it might be all we have, it’s hard to find the right words. We can all attest to this. Who hasn’t felt the blush of guilt from having to admit that you don’t pray enough or that you should pray more? But always remember one thing when it comes to prayer–it is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart. The Bible gave us the words, and this book reinforces and sheds a new and relevant light on them.
You are only 21 second away from living a totally different life. (Quote source: “21 Seconds to Change Your World,” pp. 9-11).
The following is from Chapter 13 titled, “David–Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies” from Psalm 23:5a (pp. 101-103):
How very like David the king this statement is [e.g. Psalm 23:5a]. David knew all about enemies. His whole life he was surrounded by enemies. The ravenous beasts who wanted his sheep were the enemies of his childhood. And what a childhood it was! After the lions and bears came Goliath, then Saul, the Philistines, the Ammonites, the Hittites, the Jebusites, palace plotters, one of his own sons, and finally, old age. When David wrote of enemies, he knew whereof he spoke. He lived his life in the presence of enemies.
It’s no wonder then that he speaks of God’s loving providence in the midst–not in the absence–of enemies. David never said God would give me a life without enemies. He did say that God has not forsaken me when gossipers and detractors and envious plotters are circling me like hungry wolves.
As a university president and a businessman, I frequently needed cash-flow projections from my chief financial officer. In order to understand those projections I had to know the assumptions they were based on. Likewise, the Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 23 are based on a certain set of assumptions.
Here are the seven assumptions of the Lord’s Prayer:
- There is a God and He is our heavenly Father.
- He is worthy to be praised.
- He is our king and He has a will for our lives now, not just later in heaven.
- We must eat to live, and we can trust Him to eat.
- We have all sinned and need forgiveness.
- We must forgive to be forgiven.
- We will face temptation and evil.
Here are the seven assumptions of Psalm 23:
- The Lord is a good and caring shepherd-provider, even as I am a needy sheep.
- I have needs in my body such as food and water.
- My soul also has needs such as restoration.
- I live in a confusing world and I need guidance.
- I will walk through the valley of the shadow of death. (The psalmist assumes that it is a matter of when, not if.)
- There will be times I need comfort and protection.
- I will (not might) have enemies.
This last assumption is probably the most painful to learn. When I was young–and I believe many young folks feel this way–I thought that if I was a nice person I would not have enemies. Now I see that nothing you do can keep someone else from deciding they are your enemy. You may indeed make enemies with your own actions, but you are likely to have enemies regardless of how nice or good or generous or anything you are. It is so hard for those who desire to be no one’s enemy to realize that they themselves have enemies not of their own making. On the other hand, it is a joy to realize that though I may be absolutely surrounded by enemies, I am not abandoned. Even in their mocking presence, I am loved, guarded, and provided for by my Father and Shepherd.
The story of Hadassah, or Esther, is perhaps the prime example in the Bible of the truth about hidden enemies. The young Queen Esther is certainly to be admired, but the real heroic figure in the story in Mordecai. Without Mordecai there is no story of Esther. Indeed, without Mordecai, the slaughter of the Jews would have been an unimaginable horror. Mordecai’s story is also a prime example of God’s blessing in the presence of enemies.
In that story, told in the book of Esther, a man named Haman hates Mordecai, the Jew. Haman’s is an unreasonable and envious hatred, as, by the way, most anti-Semitism is unreasonable and fueled by envy. Haman wants to despoil Mordecai, take all he has, pull him down, and even kill him–and not just Mordecai, but every Jew in Xerxes’ kingdom. Mordecai has no such evil designs on Haman. He does not harbor hatred for Haman, or want him killed, or covet Haman’s position or his possessions. Mordecai is a decent man, a faithful servant of the king, and a loyal citizen, yet Haman hates him bitterly.
It is a dangerous naïveté to think that because you are a decent, God-fearing person who tries to be friendly and fair to everyone, you will have no enemies. Psalm 23 assumes the presence of enemies, not the absence of enemies. Just like Mordecai, you have enemies. And just like Haman, they feel justified, even righteous in their every attempt to bring you down. Haman justified his efforts to destroy Mordecai by wrapping it in the claim that it would be good for Xerxes and his kingdom. You have enemies who assume your destruction might even be good for God and His kingdom. When my soul most needed restoration, I was shocked to discover that some did not want me healed, but instead wanted me strung up.
As in the case of Haman and Mordecai, God will also care for you miraculously. At one point, Mordecai’s archenemy, Haman, must lead Mordecai through the streets of the capital, proclaiming the king’s favor upon the hated Jew. Finally, of course, Esther is used by God to foil the murderous plot, and Haman himself is hanged on the gallows he built for Mordecai.
We can rest in the knowledge that God will protect us and give us victory over those who hate us without cause.
“Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” (Quote source: “21 Seconds to Change Your World,” pp. 101-104).
I hope this sample reading from Chapter 13 in “21 Seconds to Change Your World” has whetted your appetite for more. Click here to find a variety of bookstores where this book can be purchased. I know in my own life, even though my outward circumstances haven’t changed yet, how incredibly meaningful it has been to me in my own relationship with Jesus Christ to combine The Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 23 over and over and over again in prayer. To have found Dr. Rutland’s book the other day was a confirmation to me of just how powerful combining them in prayer can be. And if you haven’t memorized them yet, do so now.
I’d like to end this post with the words from The Lord’s Prayer that are left out in some translations. They are found in the closing of the prayer (NKJV, also found in KJV):
For Yours (thine) is the kingdom and the power . . .
And the glory, forever . . .
Amen . . . .
YouTube Video: “Overcomer” by Mandisa:
I picked up an interesting book the other day with a title that captured my attention. The book is titled, “The Book of Mysteries” (2016), and it is the latest offering by Jonathan Cahn, a Messianic rabbi, biblical scholar, New York Times best-selling author, and President of “Hope of the World” ministries. The following description of the book is found on Amazon.com:
Imagine if you discovered a treasure chest in which were hidden ancient mysteries, revelations from heaven, secrets of the ages, the answers to man’s most enduring, age-old questions, and the hidden keys that can transform your life to joy, success, and blessing…This is “The Book of Mysteries.”
Jonathan Cahn, who caused a national and international stir with the New York Times best-seller “The Harbinger” and then “The Mystery of the Shemitah,” now brings us a treasure chest inside of which are contained some of the greatest mysteries of all time. . . . “The Book of Mysteries” takes the readers on a journey of divine revelation through ancient Scriptures, the laws of Creation, the deep of God’s Word, the hidden streams of history, the most important keys of spiritual truth, end-time mysteries, and the secrets of life.
“The Book of Mysteries” opens up with a traveler and his encounter with a man known only as “the teacher.” The teacher takes him on an odyssey through desert mountains, valleys, gardens and plains, encounters with nomadic tent dwellers, caverns and ancient ruins, chambers of scrolls and vessels, and more. The reader is taken along to partake in the journey and in all the teachings and revelations. The traveler keeps a journal in which he writes down each of the mysteries given to him by the teacher in his one-year odyssey—365 different mysteries—one for each day of the year. Thus, on top of everything else, “The Book of Mysteries” is also a daily devotional unlike any other. And each mystery contains a special mission for each day of the year, a mission that takes the revelation and applies it to reality for a life-changing journey. (Quote source here.)
Several endorsements for the book are listed below:
“I was absolutely stunned!” ~Governor Mike Huckabee, 44th Governor of Arkansas and 2016 Presidential Candidate.
“The most amazing thing I have ever read! Brilliant and stunning… sobering… humbling… it is undeniable truth. It is one of the most important books of our lifetime!” ~Joseph Farah, author and founder, editor and chief executive officer of WND
As noted above, the book is a record of a year long journey by a traveler (who is actually the author as acknowledged in “The Beginning” at the front of the book on pp. viii – x) when he dwelt in the desert and encountered someone identified only as “a teacher of mysteries.” The book is laid out much like a journal with each day’s teaching recorded under that specific day. As I was looking through the book, the entry for “Day 179” stood out as I could easily see the relevance and insight it provides for those of us living in America and other prosperous countries around the world. The following journal entry comes from “Day 179” in “The Book of Mysteries” (Day 179 is the actual page number):
He led me up a small mountain. When we reached its summit, we came across what looked like the remains of some sort of ancient gathering place. One could discern that by the arrangement of the stones, which had clearly not been produced by nature.
“When Israel turned away from God,” he said, “they turned to Baal. Baal was the god of their turning away, the god of their apostasy . . . or gods. You see, there wasn’t just one Baal, but many, many manifestations of the one. And the many were called the Baalim or the Baals. There was a Baal for everything, a Baal for every desire, every indulgence, and every sin. When you turn away from God, you end up worshipping the Baalim.”
“But who worships Baal anymore?” I asked.
“Whatever you give the highest place in your life to, whatever you live for, if it’s something other than God, that’s your Baal, and you’re worshipping it. And whenever one turns away from God, one turns, in one form or another, to Baal. And there’s a mystery to Baal. It’s in his name. Do you know what Baal means?”
“I have no idea.”
“Baal means master. The Hebrews thought the Baals were there to serve them, but it was the other way around. Because of the Baalim, the people of Israel would end up losing everything they valued most. You see, whatever your Baal is, it will always end up mastering you . . . it will always end up becoming your master. Some are mastered by the Baal of success, others by the Baals of power, others by the Baals of pleasure, others by the Baals of money and increase, others by the Baals of self. But they are all Baals, cruel and merciless masters.”
He looked away from the gathering place and into the distant mountains.
“And do you know what else Baal means?” he asked.
“Baal means owner. And what does that reveal?”
“You become owned by the Baal you worship.”
“Yes, possessed by your possession, by the idol you serve.”
“How different from God,” I said.
“Yes,” he said. “God is the true Master, the true Owner . . . and yet the One who gives Himself to you to become your possession, so that by giving yourself freely to Him you will no longer be mastered or owned by anything but His love.”
The Mission: Identify your Baal, that which has mastered you. Submit to the will of the Master [God] and you’ll have the power to break free from that Baal.
This concludes the reading for Day 179. I have nothing to add from what has been written above and it really does say it all. And we all have our Baals–those things that control us and own us. May we each take some time to consider our own Baals and the consequences they bring to our lives by placing them (and anything else) ahead of God. Do we want to continue worshipping our Baals, or turn them back over to God?
I’ll end this post with the words from 1 John 5:21:
Little children . . .
Keep yourselves from idols . . .
Amen . . . .
YouTube Video: “For the Love of Money” by the O’Jays:
YouTube Video: “Lose My Soul” by TobyMac, Kirk Franklin, and Mandisa:
I published this blog post on December 25, 2015 under the title of “Christmas and the Christian Faith.” As I reread it this evening I decided to reblog it again for this year. Here is the entire contents of that blog post.
I ran across the following article this morning on a “Public Domain” website titled, “Recognizing the Importance of Christmas and the Christian Faith” by (source here). It is actually a speech given by the Honorable Steve King of Iowa in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, December 11, 2007.
It’s significance cannot be underestimated. Here is the text of that speech (quote source here):
RECOGNIZING THE IMPORTANCE OF CHRISTMAS AND THE CHRISTIAN FAITH
HON. STEVE KING
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Mr. KING of Iowa: Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking the Ranking Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, the gentlewoman from Florida, Ms. Ros-Lehtinen, for her support and help in getting this important measure to the House floor for a vote.
Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to address the House today to discuss the importance and relevance of Christmas, the Christian holiday celebrating the birth of our savior Jesus Christ.
As this resolution notes, there are approximately 225 million Christians in the United States, making Christianity the religion of over three-fourths of the American population. Beyond that, there are approximately 2 billion Christians throughout the world, making Christianity the largest religion in the world and the religion of about one-third of the world population.
And yet, Mr. Speaker, in recent decades there have been some who have undertaken efforts to diminish the significance of this great religion, and these efforts are no more apparent than during this time of Christmas.
It is not hard to look out over this great country of ours and find those who, for one reason or another, have engaged in a highly-politicized and highly-publicized crusade to rid the public square of any reference to the religious underpinnings of the Christmas holiday. These are individuals who have subscribed to a radical interpretation of our Constitution’s free exercise and establishment clauses and have sought to impose their secular views and beliefs on the nation as a whole.
In many respects, it is this ongoing effort to bring about the secularization of Christmas–and all of our everyday lives for that matter–that motivated me to bring this resolution before the House today.
Regardless of how others may define it, Mr. Speaker, Christmas is a religious holiday. It is the day on which Christians–those who identify themselves as believers in the salvation from sin offered to them through the death and resurrection of their savior, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and who, out of gratitude for the gift of salvation, commit themselves to living their lives in accordance with the teachings of the Holy Bible–celebrate the birth of their savior. For Christians, the birth of Jesus is cause for great celebration. As the Son of God, Jesus was sent to earth, by our Heavenly Father, to become a human being, live a sinless life, be crucified on a cross for our sins, and rise from the dead three days later. The purpose of this, as you well know, Mr. Speaker, was to save sinners from eternal death–the price to be paid for their sin.
And so, Mr. Speaker, the birth of Christ, as celebrated by Christians on Christmas is a truly important and significant day because it is celebrated as a recognition of God’s redemption, mercy and Grace.
The importance of Christmas, however, does not end with the tenets of Christianity. Because Christmas is one of the most important holidays on the Christian calendar, I believe that its annual passage should serve as an opportunity for all Americans, Christian or not, religious or not, to recognize the important role played by Christianity in the formation of our nation and in the founding of our civilization.
It is no coincidence, Mr. Speaker, that courthouses throughout this country proudly display the Ten Commandments. It is no accident that, in this very chamber, it is the face of Moses, the human author of those divinely dictated commandments, that looks down upon you, keeping close watch on all that transpires in this chamber. Mr. Speaker the framework of our laws and the fabric of our society is heavily dependent upon the maxims of Christianity, and I believe that as we Christians begin our annual celebration of the birth of our savior, the one from whom Christianity derives its name, it is wholly appropriate for us, as a nation and as members of this House, to take the time to acknowledge the contributions that the Christian religion has made to our country and our way of life.
Mr. Speaker, I think we all can agree that virtually any American, whether Christian, atheist, agnostic, or otherwise, when confronted with the fact that he has in some way wronged his neighbor, will rightly respond in one universal way–knock on his door, confess to him, repent, and ask for forgiveness. The neighbor would then forgive them as Christ has taught us. True and simple as this may seem, it is important to ask why we as Americans naturally react in such a way. The answer of course is that in this “conditioned behavior” we see very clearly the positive effect that Christianity has had on the development of our country and culture.
There are few places in the United States–if any–that you can visit where the laws “do not steal” and “do not murder” do not apply. Likewise, there are few households in this great country in which moral character is developed in young children without the invocation of the ninth and tenth amendments regarding lying and coveting that which belongs to others.
Mr. Speaker, we as Americans live in a moral society and in a country that is governed by moral laws. While many of these laws obviously cannot be found in any explicit sense within the pages of the Holy Bible, when we survey the content of that book–the document that outlines how it is the Christians are to live their lives here on earth–we do find much in the way of foundational principles that has come to guide not just the development of our laws, but also the foundation of our nation.
It was from the Bible and the example of Jesus that Pilgrims first established government on this continent, from which the Founders outlined the political thought that shaped our nation, and by which Congress first intended to educate our children. Furthermore, as the scholar David Barton and others have tirelessly pointed out, it was from the Bible that early American leaders derived concepts like private ownership, the free-enterprise system, an industrious work ethic, and workfare rather than welfare. As a result, the life and teachings of Jesus Christ have permeated every aspect of life in America. He has shaped our culture and transformed every great leader to rise from our population. As a testament to this, each of our American Presidents has acknowledged God’s hand on this Christian nation that is the United States. If there never had been a Jesus Christ, there would never have been an America.
In an address to the nation President Truman once said that, “In love, which is the very essence of the message of the Prince of Peace, the world would find a solution for all its ills. I do not believe there is one problem in this country or in the world today which could not be settled if approached through the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount. The poets’ dream, the lesson of priest and patriarch and the prophets’ vision of a new heaven and a new earth, all are summed up in the message delivered in the Judean hills beside the Sea of Galilee. Would that the world would accept that message in this time of its greatest need!”
He went on to say that, “This is a solemn hour. In the stillness of the Eve of the Nativity when the hopes of mankind hang on the peace that was offered to the world nineteen centuries ago, it is but natural, while we survey our destiny, that we give thought also to our past–to some of the things which have gone into the making of our Nation.”
In 1940, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said of Christmas, “it is well for all humanity to remind itself that while this is in its name a Christian celebration, it is participated in reverently and happily by hundreds of millions of people who are members of other religions, or belong actively to no church at all. The reason is not far to seek. It is because the spirit of unselfish service personified by the life and the teachings of Christ makes appeal to the inner conscience and hope of every man and every woman in every part of the earth.”
President Eisenhower called the nation to reflect during his remarks at the lighting of the Nation’s Christmas Tree on December 15, 1957 when he said, “In a few days we shall all celebrate the birth of His Holiness on earth. We shall recreate in our minds, once more, the ancient coming of that Spirit who remains alive for millions in our time. We shall acknowledge the Kingdom of a Child in a world of men.”
He went on to say, “That Child–we should remember–grew into manhood Himself, preached and moved men in many walks of life, and died in agony. But His death–so the Christian faith tells us–was not the end. For Him, and for millions of men and women ever since, it marked a time of triumph–when the spirit of life triumphed over death. So–if this Christmas season in a time of war is to have real meaning to us, it must celebrate more than the birth of a Baby.”
During his Radio Address to the Nation on Christmas Eve, 1983 President Reagan pointed out that “It’s been said that all the kings who ever reigned, that all the parliaments that ever sat have not done as much to advance the cause of peace on Earth and good will to men as the man from Galilee, Jesus of Nazareth.” [YouTube Video of speech is available here. Length of video: 5:10]
As the words of these great men–these revered and honored presidents of the United States of America have clearly demonstrated, it is not a stretch to say that the precepts and principles of Jesus have so completely permeated the culture of this nation that even an American atheist would be hard pressed to separate his worldview from the impact of the first Christmas.
Though we are not all Christians, Mr. Speaker, we are all Americans. By virtue of that simple fact, I will again reiterate my belief that it is not only appropriate but, more importantly, is necessary during this special time of year to remember not only the birth of Jesus Christ, the savior of the world, but also to recognize the important impact that the Christian faith has had on the foundation and development of our society, our nation, and our civilization. (Quote source here.)
Joy to the world, the Lord is come. . .
Let Earth receive. . .
Her King. . .
YouTube Video: “Joy to the World” sung by Whitney Houston:
In case you’re interested, here’s the YouTube Video of President Reagan’s Radio Address to the Nation on Christmas Eve 1983 referenced in the speech above: