Category Archives: Holidays

The Gift of Christmas

Christmas is a wonderful time of year. Time off from school or work. Time with family and friends. Inspiring music fills the air and soul with joy. Dramatic plays direct our minds to real meaning of this holiday.

The history of Christmas go back beyond the man named Saint Nicolas, who went around giving gifts to make people merry. He is as real today as in medieval times. A number of years ago he was seen driving a red and white Cadillac and visiting hospitals and orphanages throughout the United States. Yes, his white hair, beard and mustache are not fake, neither is his fat belly or name: Saint Nicholas. Santa Clause must be a modern make-over for commercial reasons. How St. Nick got the name Kris Kringle is anyone’s guess. What we do know is history leads us back to ancient times when Christmas actual began.

It was around 4 BC, when angels appeared to a group of shepherds, most likely on their way to the annual Jewish Festival of Booths, announcing the birth of the long awaited messiah. During this festival, people of Israel celebrated their freedom that began with the Exodus experienced by their ancestors. Around the same time, Parthia’s ambassadors, also called Magi, came to Jerusalem accompanied by a military escort, looking for the newly born Messiah-king of Israel. Along with indigenous Jews, they too came to celebrate the prospect of liberty from Rome’s imperial influence. The disturbing problem for King Herod and Caesar by the magi’s visit was the fact that Parthia was an independent kingdom with whom Rome has a military truce based on formal treaties. What could they do about representatives of a foreign power creating expectations of a new messianic era of independence?

The expectations and hope spread by the magi, shepherds, and even priests were not to be fulfilled. The boy conceived during the Festival of Lights–a celebration of freedom and salvation–and born during the festival of the an even more ancient experience of God’s salvation and independence from dehumanizing bondage—was destined to save the world from an even more ancient evil: bondage to sin. It is this power over human thought and behavior that Jesus was sent by God to destroy, and not the empire of Rome. This would come in God’s predetermined time.

The power of sin is the prevailing source of all the human atrocities, wars, moral crimes, envy, jealousy, pride and greed that motivate violence and murder, resulting in poverty, social disintegration, distrust, alienation, divorce, and the like. In infant innocence, Jesus came via the manager to deliver humanity from the power and consequences of sin.

The real difference between Exodus and “the Cross” is this: Exodus liberated socially, politically and economically; it changed social status, resulted in a new political amenability, created greater potential for economic independence, and was intended to produce a new social morality reflecting God’s nature. Jesus’s birth, death and resurrection accomplishes the same but by changing human nature, which is accomplished by the overmastering power of God’s spirit. This is the Spirit who created the first sinless human, and recreated a second sinless human to redeem the progeny of the first, which includes us. If this babe who came via Bethlehem’s manger is taken seriously as God’s light and covenant, then God is free to accomplish his redemptive goal in and through our lives, society and world. For the life of baby Jesus is a model of the God who delivers from every form of bondage and the power behind it. Amenable to his word and rule, liberty and prosperity of soul and society produce peace, joy and good will. As God leads the way through adversity and opposition, Christ empowers loyal believers to a good and eternal life in God’s kingdom.

Why not accept God’s Christmas gift.

Christmas: Promise and Purpose

By Daniel Downs

Christmas is a multifaceted story about real events wrapped in two narratives. The two narratives are found in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. Like a new train and its track, these two narratives are part of one colorfully packaged gift given to humanity by God. Together they show the meaning of Christmas.

Some scholars and teachers rightly say the reason for the season is God’s love, peace, and forgiveness of sin.

The first gospel begins with teen pregnancy. Yes, it’s true the Hebrew word translated virgin actually means young woman or teen girl. It’s equally true that in ancient Jewish culture teenage girls were expected to marry and then bear children. Out-of-wedlock pregnancies were as unlawful as immoral. The social stigmatism would have been as illiberal as Scarlet Letter puritanism. Just as a barren wife, a young unwed mother would have experienced the discriminating scorn of a religious society. Therefore, it is reasonable to interpret the transliterated Hebrew word almah as virgin (Mt. 1:23; Isa. 7:14).

Rabbinical literature originating in Babylonia portrays young Mary as mistress of a Roman soldier. Whether because of sinful consent, seduction or rape, Mary’s pregnancy was conceived by rabbis opposed to the gospel message as adulterated sin. The Palestinian view, as scholars call it, is considerably different. It lacked any negative diatribes against Mary or her son. Just as the Palestinian Talmud reflects its local context, the two gospel narratives were rooted in local events and daily life in Judea and Samaria.

We also will find the meaning of Christmas grounded in the same geographical, cultural, ideological, and historical situation of then current events.

While reading our two narrative gifts, two bright themes twinkle like lights reflecting off shinny wrappings. Those themes are promise and purpose. As if sitting prominently under a Christmas tree, the two themes are wrapped with bright colorful interpretations of unfolding events. Those events appear to be fulfillment of promises made by God through even more ancient prophets. As such, they reveal as well as affirm the purpose of God.

For example, the gospel of Matthew begins the story of Jesus’ birth with marriage. “Mary has been betrothed to Joseph…her husband (1:18, 19). In ancient Jewish culture, engagement was regarded as the beginning of a marriage. While Joseph was thinking about divorcing her, an angel told him to keep his wife because her pregnancy was God’s doing (1:19-20). Why would God do such a thing? The angel continued telling Joseph that Mary’s son would save his people. At that time, most Israelis were expecting a Messiah that would deliver them from the oppressive rule of the Roman Empire and puppet kings like Herod. That was not God’s purpose. Jesus was adopted and formed in the womb of Joseph’s virgin wife to save his people from their sins (1:20-21). This was seen by ancient writers like Matthew as fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy about the Messiah (1:20-21; Isa. 7:14). As evident in writings like Psalms of Solomon, 1 Enoch, and Dead Sea Scrolls, the Messiah of David would represent the holy presence of God and lead all Jews into sinless living. In fact some believed the law would pass away when the true Messiah began to reign. For the law not to be needed meant all had to live holy lives at all times. Being capable of doing so meant the Messiah had to be as holy and sinless as those he would make holy or sinless. That is what the name “Immanuel” or “God with us” meant to those same ancient people.

If we trace the biblical history of God’s redemption, God chooses marriage and family as part of the means to its end.

The purpose of marriage is narrated in Genesis (2:18-25). After their moral crime, Adam and Eve were given a promised future in which God’s purpose would continue. Adam and Eve would create a society of families who would make God’s creation productive and who would overcome temptation and immorality (Gen. 3). It was for married society that God offered the first animal sacrifice in order to cover the naked guilt and shame of the first traditionally married couple. The clothing also served to minimize temptation (Gen. 3:21-23). Nevertheless, sibling rivalry and sexual perversion motivated by jealousy and lust followed (Gen. 4:1-24). One result was the rise of the first walled urban city, according to archaeology. Beginning with Adam’s grandson, the descendants of Adam began seeking God’s redemption (Gen. 4:25-26). Why? Because human decadence also continued until it dominated society. This was followed with the family of Noah being saved from the flood as well as the continuation the covenant of redemption that began with Adam (Gen. 6-8 & 9-10). The fulfillment of God’s redemptive purpose was given greater specificity with the family of Abraham. Through this family, God promised to bless the entire world (Gen. 12-17). At the same time, the sterile couple, Abraham and Sarah, was promised a son, Isaac, through whom the promise would be fulfilled in history (Gen. 15, 18). Yet, the promise was The same could be said about the family of David and the promised Messiah (2 Sa. 7:12-16; Rom. 1:1-4). Not only through a specific descendant of David would Israel’s redemption be realized but all people across the globe would have access to it as well. With the virgin birth of Jesus, the promised redemption began to be fulfilled.

As we have seen, God chose a young married couple to bring His adopted son into the world. The fact that an angel visibly announced God’s adoptive purpose for Jesus’ life before his conception gave them a solemn mission of parenting. Their purpose was to raise God’s son to fulfill his life purpose—the salvation of Israel as well as rule of the kingdom (Lk. 1: 32-33). All of this was affirmed first by the priestly shepherds who were told by a host of angels that the salvation this new born King would bring was for all people (Lk. 2:10-14). Further affirmation came at Jesus’ dedication by the temple priest Simeon (Lk. 2:21-32). Simeon again affirmed that Jesus was salvation for both Jews and gentiles according to Isaiah 49:5-6. Finally, the ambassadors of Parthia, the Magi, came escorted by a military regiment to pay homage to the newly born Messiah (Mt. 2:1-6). Consequently, Mary and Joseph were parents with a holy mission to deliver God’s gift of salvation holy and sinless for both Israel and the world. They had godly relatives and friends as well as a culture defined by God’s word (however tainted by sin and the influence of Rome’s presence) to assist them.

This was God’s Christmas gift to all people for all times. Jesus’ parents wrapped him in a Hanukkah candle wick because God wanted all people to see that His son is true light of the world (Lk. 2:12-14). While his destiny was to suffer the shame and judgment for all sins of all people on the cross and in hell, God saw the fulfillment of his redemptive purpose advance toward final fulfillment (Isa. 53). Having fully satisfied divine justice, God raised His son from hell, from death’s tomb, and from the rejection of ignorant men. And, by lifting His son up to His side in heaven, the light of His peace, grace, and holy life forever shines for all to behold and embrace. God’s just forgiveness, His presence and empowerment, and His acceptance are continually held out by our gentle risen Shepherd and Lord Jesus. The gift only has to be received and lived. When all parents and their children do, society will finally realize the common good of God’s will. Then peace will then reign on earth.

“Accessorize, Economize and Socialize” at Greene Community Health Foundation’s 4th annual Fashion Swap ‘N Shop, October 27th

The Greene Community Health Foundation’s 4th annual Fashion Swap ‘N Shop is scheduled for Saturday, October 27th, 2012 from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. at the Schindler Banquet Center in Xenia.

The Fashion Swap ‘N Shop is just that…a chance for women to come together to “swap” clothing and “shop” with a variety of businesses, just in time for the holidays. Clothing swaps are becoming more and more popular as Americans from every tax bracket are cutting back how much they spend on clothing in local retail shops. And with the focus on living “greener”, it’s a great way to recycle unwanted fashion items from outfits to accessories, such as jewelry, purses and shoes.

Women are invited to bring up to 5 gently-used, upscale and consignment-worthy clothing items of all sizes on hangars, including accessories to swap with other women. The event, featuring a luncheon, chair massages, fashion show and basket raffle, also boasts close to 30 different women’s home-based businesses including Pampered Chef, Tastefully Simple, Gem City Feng Shui, Scentsy, Mary Kay Cosmetics, Silpada, Velata Fondue and many more. Goody bags filled with various items will be provided to each guest, courtesy of Security National Bank. Nathalie Basha of WDTN-TV’s Living Dayton will be the guest emcee for the event.

Proceeds from this event will benefit the Clinic Cupboard housed at the Greene County Combined Health District in Xenia. This cupboard contains basic over-the-counter medical supplies, baby necessities and personal products for GCCHD clients in need throughout Greene County. All remaining clothing from the swap will be donated to Community Action Partnership of Greene County.

Reservations are due by Wednesday, October 19 and are $30.00 per person or $25.00 per person if reserving 4 or more women together. The event is sponsored by Miami Valley Hospital, Simply W.O.M.E.N. Dayton, The Greene, WDTN-TV, Mini University, Inc., Security National Bank, Evergreen Children’s Center and Lori’s Loft Upscale Consignment Boutique. For more information or to make a reservation, please contact Laurie Fox at 937-374-5669 or email her at lfox@gcchd.org. The brochure with a reservation form is available on the website, www.gcchd.org.

Annual Car Show to Feature Hot Rods and Cool Cars in Support of ‘Holiday Project’

(Xenia, OH) This weekend on Saturday, September 1, hot rods and cool cars will line the streets of downtown Xenia at Main and Detroit Streets to raise funds for the Greene Community Health Foundation’s annual Holiday Project at the Greene County Combined Health District. This event is sponsored by the Greene County Road Runners Car Club.

The 16th annual ‘Christmas for Kids’ Car Show will roll into town on Saturday featuring door prizes, 50/50 raffles and fun for all ages. Registration for cars will be held from 9:00am – 12:00pm and anything on wheels is just $10 per entry. Dash plaques will be provided to the first 100 entries and various awards will be given to selected entries including the ‘Favorite 50’, Best Engine and Best Paint. The show is free to spectators and will be held 9:00am – 3:00pm, rain or shine. All proceeds support the Holiday Project which provides holiday gifts for Greene County families in need. Donations of new toys will be accepted throughout the day.

GCCHD would like to thank the car show event coordinators Adam, Andrew and Sherri Geis, along with many generous sponsors and donors from the community.

For more information on the car show, please contact Sherri Geis at 937-510-1504 or Carol Sue Knox at 937-374-5658 or by email at cknox@gcchd.org.

United States Is Still Best Laboratory for the Potential of Liberty

M. Zuhdi Jasser president and founder of The American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD)and author of “A Battle for the Soul of Islam: An American Muslim Patriot’s Fight for His Faith released the following statement to commemorate the Fourth of July:

“As we come together to celebrate the Fourth of July this week, it is only appropriate to take a moment to reflect on the importance of this day. When those 55 men signed their name on the Declaration of Independence they not only declared their independence from the British crown, but demonstrated for all humanity that our Creator intended us to be free. In so doing they reclaimed faith from the crown and vested it in the hands of the people.

These brave actions culminated in the grand experiment that is America. While there are certainly conflicts that divide us, there is no place where I as an American Muslim can live, practice my faith and pursue happiness that is as free and as just as the United States.

As we celebrate our Independence, the American Islamic Forum for Democracy takes as a solemn duty our call to demonstrate to the youth and in particular the Muslim youth of America the importance of maintaining vigilance over the rights that are ordained from our creator, but guaranteed by our Constitution. Our Muslim Liberty Project aims to teach our children that government based in reason that embraces the right of every individual to accept or reject faith as they see fit is not in conflict with their Islamic faith and in reality provides the safest environment for Muslims to exist.

With the changes in the Middle East and the rise of Islamists to power in the region that duty becomes even more important. The threat posed by the radicalization of our youth in American Muslim communities is as palpable today as it has ever been. As we have seen in Norway in just the past week, Al Qaeda in Yemen is not sitting idly by waiting to find ways to attack us. They are engaged and working every day to get beyond our defenses.

If we inoculate our American Muslim youth against the ideology of Islamism and its inherent pathway towards radicalization, we keep the wolves at bay and leave room for these youth to embrace the values of Americanism that were put into action with the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Take time on this holiday to thank the founding fathers for their courage and their conviction. May God Bless the United States of America and may God keep and protect those in the U.S. military that fight to maintain that freedom for us.”

The American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) charitable organization. AIFD’s mission advocates for the preservation of the founding principles of the United States Constitution, liberty and freedom, through the separation of mosque and state. For more information on AIFD, please visit our website at http://www.aifdemocracy.org.

Everyday People and the American Revolution

By John W. Whitehead

We elevate the events of the American Revolution to near-mythical status all too often and forget that the real revolutionaries were people just like you and me. Caught up in the drama of Red Coats marching, muskets exploding and flags waving in the night, we lose sight of the enduring significance of the Revolution and what makes it relevant to our world today. Those revolutionaries, by and large, were neither agitators nor hotheads. They were not looking for trouble or trying to start a fight. Like many today, they were simply trying to make it from one day to another, a task that was increasingly difficult as Britain’s rule became more and more oppressive.

The American Revolution did not so much start with a bang as with a whimper—a literal cry for relief from people groaning under the weight of Britain’s demands. The seeds of discontent had been sown early on. By the time the Stamp Act went into effect on November 1, 1765, the rumbling had become a roar.

The Stamp Act, passed by the British Parliament with no representation from the colonies (thus raising the battle cry of “no taxation without representation”), required that revenue stamps be affixed to all printed materials. It was an onerous tax that affected every colonist who engaged in any type of business. Outraged at the imposition, the colonists responded with a flood of pamphlets, speeches and resolutions. They staged a boycott of British goods and organized public protests, mass meetings, parades, bonfires and other demonstrations.

Mercy Otis Warren was an active propagandist against the British and a prime example of the critical, and often overlooked, role that women played in the Revolution. Historian Nina Baym writes, “With the exception of Abigail Adams, no woman in New England was more embroiled in revolutionary political talk than Mercy Otis Warren.” Warren penned several plays as a form of protest, including The Group in 1775. As Baym writes: “The Group is a brilliant defense of the revolutionary cause, a political play without a patriot in it. In letting the opposition drop their masks of decency, Warren exposes them as creatures of expediency and selfishness, men who are domestic as well as political tyrants.”

Although Parliament repealed the Stamp Tax in 1766, it boldly moved to pass the Townshend Acts a year later. The Townshend Acts addressed several issues. First, any laws passed by the New York legislature were suspended until the colony complied with the Quartering Act, which required that beds and supplies be provided for the king’s soldiers. And duties (or taxes) were imposed on American imports of glass, lead, paint, paper and tea.

Americans responded in outrage through printed materials and boycotts. In Letters of a Pennsylvania Farmer, which appeared in newspapers and pamphlets, attorney John Dickinson argued that Parliament had no right to levy taxes for revenue. He also cautioned that the cause of liberty be advanced with moderation. But as historians George Brown Tindall and David Emory Shi write, “Such conciliatory language led John Adams to dismiss Dickinson as a ‘piddling genius.’” Samuel Adams responded by organizing protests in Boston. And in 1768, Samuel Adams and James Otis circulated a letter throughout the colonies that reiterated their concerns about the illegality of British taxation and asked for support from the other colonists. When an official in London ordered that the letter be withdrawn, they refused. By 1773, Samuel Adams had convinced the Boston town meeting to form a “Committee of Correspondence,” a group of protesting American colonists. The Committee issued a statement of rights and grievances and invited other towns to do the same.

Thereafter, Committees of Correspondence sprang up across Massachusetts. And in 1773, the Virginia Assembly proposed the formation of Committees of Correspondence on an inter-colonial basis. A network of committees spread across the colonies, mobilizing public opinion and preventing colonial resentments from boiling over. As a result, the Committees of Correspondence played a critical role in the unification of the colonies. Author Nat Hentoff writes:

In 1805, Mercy Otis Warren—in her History of the Rise and Progress and Termination of the American Revolutions, emphasized: “Perhaps no single step contributed so much to cement the union of the colonies, and the final acquisition of independence, as the establishment of the Committees of Correspondence . . . that produced unanimity and energy throughout the continent.” These patriots spread the news throughout the colonies about such British subversions of fundamental liberties as the general search warrant that gave British customs officers free reign to invade homes and offices in pursuit of contraband.

We would do well to remember that, in the end, it was the courage and resolve of common, everyday people that carried the day. Courage was a key ingredient in the makeup of the revolutionaries. The following vignette offers a glimpse of one man’s strong stand in the face of the British army.

Two months before the battles of Lexington and Concord, the British sent Colonel Leslie with 240 men to seize arms and ammunition which the rebels had stored in Salem. As the troops approached town, residents halted their progress by lifting the Northfield drawbridge. Several inhabitants climbed onto the raised leaf of the bridge and engaged in a shouting match with Colonel Leslie on the other side. William Gavett, an eyewitness, reported the incident:

In the course of the debate between Colonel Leslie and the inhabitants, the colonel remarked that he was upon the King’s Highway and would not be prevented passing over the bridge.

Old Mr. James Barr, an Englishman and a man of much nerve, then replied to him: “It is not the King’s Highway; it is a road built by the owners of the lots on the other side, and no king, country or town has anything to do with it.”

Colonel Leslie was taken aback, but he pressed the issue; James Barr held firm, knowing he was in the right. In the end, Leslie promised to march only fifty rods “without troubling or disturbing anything” if the residents of Salem would lower the bridge. The bridge came down, Leslie kept his word, and the opening battle of the American Revolution was postponed. Old James Barr had taken on the British empire with a few simple words.

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. He can be contacted at johnw@rutherford.org. Information about the Institute is available at www.rutherford.org.

Making Memorial Day Make a Difference

By James Carafano

As part of my teaching duties at West Point, I took cadets on a study tour of the World War II battlefields in Normandy, France. The first stop is the cemetery on the cliffs overlooking Omaha Beach. It is hard not to realize who pays the price for fighting for us. Walking the rows of crosses and stars of David is an unending repetition of private, infantry, private, infantry, private, infantry, sergeant, private, private …

For the young cadets, it was a powerful lesson in leadership, a reminder that their decisions in battle were far weightier than the costs of their own lives. Every decision they made might add to the row, so no decision, no sacrifice should be taken lightly.

For the rest of us, there is a lesson as well: Be thankful for the freedoms won–and who won them.

Few topics in our society are more troubled than how a nation remembers. Few would dispute the practice to place flags on the memorials of the fallen–a tradition rooted in the post-Civil War practice called “Decoration Day.” Beyond that response, Americans are often never of one mind. Each generation has its own answer, and our expression of the value of service is shaped by many sentiments.

When he commanded U.S. troops during the war with Mexico, General Winfield Scott returned with $150,000 paid by Mexico City on the threat of ransacking the capital. He extorted the money because it was the only way he could guarantee that his boys were taken care of. He used the money to pay the troops and buy supplies, and he offered the rest to Congress for an Old Soldier’s Home for homeless veterans.

Conversely, when politicians looked at the 2 million Union veterans after the Civil War, they saw 2 million votes. Congress approved an overgenerous pension plan that quickly became mired in fraud, graft, and patronage until it absorbed 40 percent of the federal budget.

After World War I, the doughboys came home from the horrors of mustard gas, machine guns, and aerial bombardment to find nothing waiting for them. While veterans earned a dollar a day in France, War Department employees received $12 a day at their comfortable desks, federal civil servants received $240 annual bonuses, and assembly line employees saw their wages double. The veterans got a Veterans’ Bureau run by a former presidential campaign worker who went to prison for corruption.

Americans treated World War II veterans like the greatest generation. There were about 16 million men and women in uniform during the Second World War–the war touched every American family. We all cared.

Those returning from Vietnam encountered a mixture of hostility and indifference. Even trying to build a memorial to the fallen in Washington, D.C., proved a protracted and heart-wrenching experience.

Part of the problem is the temptation to wrap the experience of service members in a story: good war, bad war, love the troops, hate the war. We should honor the military for service and sacrifice regardless of our politics. And, we should not measure how we care according to what government does. Our service men and women are ours. They come from our community. What we do is the most important act of all.

There are many organizations out there that honor the fallen and serve the families of those affected by loss. One worth noting is the Tragedy Assistance Programs for Survivors, or TAPS. Another amazing group is the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, which ensures that every child of a special operations warrior who falls on active duty has an opportunity for a college education.

These are the kinds of organizations that make a difference. They honor the fallen by helping their families. They make us a better nation by showing us how to care–and what to do. They bring real meaning to Memorial Day.

This article was first published in The Foundry by James Jay Carafano, Ph.D., who is Deputy Director, The Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies and Director, Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies, at The Heritage Foundation.

Memorial Day Remembrance

In a recent Forbes article, Marianne Bickle reminds us of the true meaning of Memorial Day. She wrote,

Memorial Day started as a holiday to remember the fallen during the Civil War. It was enacted as an honorable day of remembrance; time Civil War was the bloodiest and most deadly war experienced on our soil. Our new and fragile country was at war with itself.

Actually, America was not new. A little under 100 years old America was more like a squabbling child among the nations. Other nations probably saw Americans as a bunch of warring siblings in need of providential correction.

Americans are still divided and warring against itself. On one side are those who for the most part seek to live by the rules and on the other side are those who make up their own rule as the game of life is played out. Yes, those brats seem to be winning. The hand of Providence, however, always gets around to spankling the little darlings. (Oops! I didn’t mean that Providence actually stoops to violent acts like spanking; what I meant to say was meaningful discipline. Surely, God does spare the rod always preferring to lovingly negotiate.)

Anyway, Bickle continued by reminding us that Memorial about honoring the fallen soldiers of all wars including the cultural war, the continuing struggle for human rights, and the daily sacrifice of those who protect society.

Expanding the definition of Memorial Day, think about the men and women who put their lives on the line for our country. George Washington, Ben Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson were considered traitors by some. Rosa Parks and Harriet Tubman put their lives on the line to make advancements for human rights. Everyday fire fighters, police and military protect our country’s freedom and the safety of its citizens, never knowing if danger is a moment away.

There are many unsung heros whose fight for our moral freedoms and security go unnoticed. Many of them faithful serve the needy society, teach us the way of right living, counsel peace, facilitate honest prosperity, advocate true justice, stand against corruption, deception and oppression. These often nameless people have or do suffered loss, slander and persecution for their service. For example, leaders who oppose gay marriage, abortion, or the advancement of Islamic law. Some have been killed for their service. Church workers killed by drug lords in the Bronx for helping children and others overcome the problems of poverity, fear, and addictions. The sacrifice and service of these Americans deserve our remembrance as well.

Source: “The Meaning of Memorial Day,” Forbes, May 21, 2012.

A Christmas Prayer

God help us to end poverty in our time.

The poverty of having a child with too little to eat and no place to
sleep, no air, sunlight and space to breathe, bask, and grow.

The poverty of watching your child suffer hunger or get sicker and
sicker and not knowing what to do or how to get help because you
don’t have another dime or a car, money, or health insurance.

The poverty of working your fingers to the bone every day taking care
of somebody else’s children and neglecting your own, and still
not being able to pay your bills.

The poverty of having a job which does not let you afford a stable
place to live and being terrified you’ll become homeless and
lose your children to foster care.

The poverty of losing your job, running out of unemployment benefits,
and no other help in sight.

The poverty of working all your life caring for your own children and
having to start all over again caring for the grandchildren you love.

The poverty of earning a college degree, having children, opening a
day care center, and taking home $300 a week-or a month-if
you’re lucky.

The poverty of loneliness and isolation and alienation-having no
one to call or visit, tell you where to get help, assist you in
getting it, or care if you’re living or dead.

The poverty of having too much and sharing too little and having the
burden of nothing to carry.

The poverty of convenient blindness and deafness and indifference to
others.

The poverty of low aim and paltry purpose, of weak will and tiny
vision, of big meetings and small actions, of loud talk and sullen
grudging service.

The poverty of believing in nothing, standing for nothing, sharing
nothing, sacrificing nothing, struggling with others for nothing.

The poverty of pride and ingratitude for God’s gifts of life and
children and family and freedom and home and country and not wanting
for others what you want for yourself.

The poverty of greed for more and more and more, ignoring, blaming,
and exploiting the needy, and taking from the weak to please the
strong.

The poverty of addiction to more and more things; drugs, drink, work,
self, violence, power, fleeting fame, and an unjust status quo.

The poverty of fear which keeps you from doing the thing you think is
right.

The poverty of convenient ignorance about the needs of those around
you and of despair and cynicism.

God help us end poverty in our time, in all its faces and places,
young and old, rural, urban, suburban and small town too, and in every
color of humans You have made everywhere.

God help us to end poverty in our time in all its guises-inside
and out-physical and spiritual, so that all our and Your
children may live the lives that you intend.

First published in Child Watch on december 16, 2011 by Marian Wright Edelman, President of Children’s Defense Fund.

The Meaning of Christmas

By Daniel Downs

Christmas is a celebration of the fulfilled promise of a new life, a baby. Honoring this new born destiny presents to the world a universal hope. It is about God being with us now and we being with God in the future.

Christmas is about parents, parenting, naming, and the common work of fulfilling God’s revealed purpose for the world; their world of family, our world of common good relationships, and God’s purposed world.

Christmas is thus a celebration of life-giving. Life is God’s gift to the world–to each individual, to each family, and to society. Every morally and materially good relationship contributes to the creation of abundant life for all. This too reflects God’s good will for all people. Its revelation began with the divine promise to Abraham. It was institutionalized through Israel. Its realization was pronounced by angels and manifested in the new born babe of Bethlehem—the one the angels said they would see lying in a lowly manger (Luke 2:1-20). The irony of life is that it always begins in utter helpless poverty, but God gives everyone the natural riches of loving parents, caring society, and nature’s bounty.

Material and monetary gifts as well as profits are meant to serve the prophetic purpose of life-destiny. Even the three wise men brought gifts to the new born babe that not only made him and his family very rich but also provided the means to fulfill his purpose in life (Matthew 2:1-12).

The significance of Christmas is how God reveals and fulfills His part in the destiny of human life. Human destiny is not a search to find oneself. It is not a hunt for life purpose or meaningful work. Human destiny is a divine revelation that is manifest, reinforced, prepared for, and fulfilled. It is the life-work, a multifaceted employment, of living well. Living well is not best defined by financial worth but by the quality of life made and given. A good life is not made alone. The author of the first book of the Bible, Genesis, wrote: “Let us make man in our image and likeness.” If God made us within a community of others, it stands to reason that we must do the same. Good persons are reproduced in a redemptive society of families committed to forming each newly born child into a good citizen of our heavenly Father’s world. In God’s world, the divinely ordained work of living means being and making to be good children, good parents, good spouses, good neighbors, good laborers or entrepreneurs, good citizens. As God provided for Jesus through the magi, God wants to provide everything needed to fulfill our own destiny whether it be with spouse, home, material goods, and understanding of the divine purpose for life. This God did for humanity’s first parent. God gave him a wife, Eve. God gave them a home in the garden. He gave them all of nature’s produce for sustenance. God also gave them trusteeship over all the riches of nature including all living creatures (Genesis 1:26-31 &2:7-24). Then, God gave a world full of families to help each other fulfill life’s destiny.

The apostle Paul referred to Jesus as the new Adam (1 Cor 15:45-49). His birth was the beginning of a new humanity. The accomplishment of his life work ushered in the realization of God’s redemptive plan for all people. The revelation of Jesus his life-purpose was first given to his parents, Mary and Joseph. God’s prepared them to prepare Jesus for its fulfillment. Therefore, the life of Jesus Christ is the model of God’s plan for every parent and child.

Jesus’ life is a revelation and history, albeit a sketchy one, of how God fulfills His plan for the world through one family of chosen parents and chosen child (to be). The life-work of Jesus—the chosen child—could not have happened without chosen parents and the entire lineage of other chosen ones. Both gospels of Matthew and Luke clearly shows the ancestry of Jesus going back through King David, to Judah, Abraham, Noah, and finally to Adam (Matthew 1:1-17 & Luke 3:23-38).

The same is true for all of us. Whether seemingly big or miniscule, our individual purpose in God’s plan for the world is connected to a host of ancestors going back to Adam and Eve. Every one of them was chosen by God for our life-work to be fulfilled.

Like Jesus, every one of us was born to fulfill a specific part in the plan of God for the world.

As the new Adam, Jesus birth represents the rebirth of humanity. Every human being born since Jesus has been represented by Him to God. Everyone has had or will have the opportunity to experience the redemption, reconciliation, renewing, and parenthood of God, who never intended to father only Jesus. God wants all people to become His children, living in His household, under His authority and care. In one sense, all humans are children of God because all exist as God created them to exist. Yet, some children live without parents. Some people who have parents live as though they do not. Others exist without any sense of history, tradition, value, future hope, purpose or legacy, all of which begins in a family household connected to extended family within a society and world of families. Even though some discover it in social institutions like school, workplace, military, social mission, mosque, synagogue, temple or church, membership in them does not equate to being part of God’s household. Without a life forming relationship with God, hearing His defining words, and obeying His law or rules meant to direct behavior and work, no one can claim to be in the household of God. For life in God’s household is eternal and not limited to temporary materiality of the present.

Jesus represents life in the household of God. His birth was the beginning not the end. His untimely death was the means to a redemptive end, the fulfillment of God’s redemption of all people. His resurrection represents the future for a new humanity. As his apostle Paul taught, Jesus was the first born from the dead not the last (Colossians 1:18; Romans8:29). Every one of us will be reborn but only those who have been faithful to God will continue to live in His household.

Wayward people often behave in ways that land them in jail or prison. The faithless and unfaithful also will live eternal life behind bars in the prison called hell.

Jesus is the way of escape in the present.

Christmas is a mass celebration of eternal life. The end of life is to live eternally in and to the glory of God the Father. This is accomplished by living the good life in God’s household, doing what is right, and fulfilling one’s divinely purposed life-work.

What God revealed to Mary and Joseph, to Elizabeth and Zachariah, to Sarah and Abraham was the life work and purpose of their first born child. Each has to live so as to fulfill it. For Jesus to fulfill his life work and its purpose, he has to live without sin to the very end. We too have to learn to do the same. For without holiness (likeness of God) no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14 ). That is, knowone will see Him after this life in heavenly city.