Reason For The Season
As children Christmas specials became less mesmerizing and parental expectations pressed to show awareness and understanding of maturing into an adult orthodox Christian, this phrase shepherded my attention toward thinking; what really was the reason? Clearly it was not Charlie Brown, a drummer boy, Frosty, Rudolph, et al anymore than "Santa" or Christmas trees, lights and presents. Given my namesake, Saint John the Theologian (orthodox Christians have trouble identifying with naming children after politicians and other fads) I was more specifically charged with knowing, along with keeping and passing on the theology of Christianity. As it became more apparent I was too simple minded to meet such high expectations, my folks didn't seem terribly disappointed. What I lacked in philosophical acumen I made up in heart for loathing the mean spirited who took advantage of others. I'd later jest to be more John the Baptist than John the Theologian, but what Mother wants to name her son after one who speaks God's truth to power to lose their head upon behest of an abusive potentate?
One of the many things to remember in veneration of the Nativity is what Mary & Joseph endured and sacrificed to bring God's greatest servant into this world to show us the path to His Father, our Heavenly Father. Among the greatest displays of affection to God (back to the days of Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 23:15) is the parent who loves God even more than their own children. Baptism is one of the most profound sacraments I've ever witnessed in orthodoxy. I often wonder if parents truly understand what they are committing to; perhaps if they did, it would lead them to take their responsibility to God more seriously. Similarly, the success and blessings of another sacrament (the marriage to my wonderful bride) wouldn't come from the earthly love we share for each other; it has resulted from the greatest love in both our lives is God. As greater evil and hatred of potentates was thrust upon us, the more powerful God's love was shown to us. The power of God's enduring love is a truly remarkable thing to remember at Christmas and every day of the year.
Now long in the tooth from the days of Santa, presents, and other childish delights, there are very few material things I hold dear in this world. When the federal government takes the first home you ever paid off, a politically connected insurance company induces lying on a witness stand to steal the expensive to replace, dependable vehicle held dear for 25 years and 1/3 million miles, etc., one embraces Scriptural wisdom on the matter. I must admit I still cherish every tool from my earthly father still in use so many decades later and for some reason my Mother saw fit to recently give me her Bible she's had since college. It is what got me thinking about my Christmas column for this year. Many years ago, searching for an answer for the reason, her Bible shepherded me to 1 John 3:8 "Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil."
Again, for someone attracted to simple, correct theological answers and more interested in reading about cars, planes, ships and trains - this seemed a very clear, easy to follow, straightforward answer for the reason. As always, I ask those with deeper understanding to forgive this lowly Instructor of economics who is better equipped to discuss Jesus' anger at the moneychanger or the ways of Zaccheaus than modern theology. The text about making a 'practice of sinning' also captured this young reader's attention. It seemed wise to not make a habit of sinning if one wants to follow the righteous path Jesus shown us to follow.
As my journey into the real world continued to reconcile with my spiritual education another indelible "Christmas moment" was first hearing the haunting lyrics of Simon & Garfunkel's Silent Night/7 O'clock News (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b1X_a9o4ezw). Mom was a big fan of "Sounds of Silence" and "Bridge Over Troubled Waters" for me to recognize the names and listen. After hearing this rendition of Silent Night, I wanted to hear more. By the time I heard the lyrics of "The Boxer" I'd be a long time fan. More to the point, this rendition of "Silent Night" made it clear God's word was not some ethereal notion to dust off and pay lip service to at Christmas and Easter. It was every bit as profound in application to LBJ & Nixon as to Tiberius & Diocletian. If I wanted to make a difference toward a better world, knowledge of this wisdom was required, but the courage to actually live and apply it mattered most.
With this in mind for Christmas 2014, I'll ask my readers to consider additional prayer for Alabama this year. The devil's work brought together Annas, Caiaphas, Herod, Pilate, et al efforts to destroy Jesus and the Spirit of righteousness. Today we observe well orchestrated efforts (from specifically crafted pockets of power, abuse of the election process, etc.) to take from good citizens of our State. Their hollow (yet highly politically charged) rhetoric is just as effective to obfuscate their corruption as the Machiavellian clergy inciting the crowd to cry for Barabbas over Jesus. Few are surprised a powerful politician from a hyper-gerrymandered district (spending $2 mil. to secure a $40k/yr. office) can reduce turnout so mostly his minions cast votes to hold onto power and keep the graft churning. All the while claiming persecution and promising freedom, the corrupt did nothing to stop actual persecution of others nor used their power to reduce tyranny. Noticeably absent when a justice was persecuted for his stance on the Ten Commandments, when asked to stop government kicking out homeowners, requested to stop his insurance mandates, etc.
Nothing new, 2 Peter 2:19 is clear on the matter, "While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption." This may direct the prayers requested by the wife of a powerful Alabama politician with many (displaying the practice) felony indictments for corruption by a just process of a Judge and Grand Jury in a city mired in corruption. Genesis 18:26 teaches us a mere 50 righteous within the city of Sodom would spare all in the place and by some estimates the fifty was a very small (<5%) number. You may recall Genesis 18:28 as a rare time God agreed to be quibbled with to allow a reduction to 45 if indeed found, yet so completely corrupt Sodom was still not spared. By some accounts there was one (8%) hold out on a recent Lee County jury to not go along with the 11 unwilling to discipline corruption, but she capitulated - i.e., the future of more corruption in our county which has permeated throughout the State will likely continue to grow with the usual end result of cancers of this sort.
Prayers this Christmas for the increasingly few who are trying to spare us the fate of unbridled corruption in Alabama to keep their resolve and carry on are probably not the sort of prayer corrupt politburo members and their families had in mind. Nonetheless to show God enough good citizens still crave His love and are not turning away from His Son we celebrate this time of year is as apropos as ever. Accepting decriminalization of political corruption is the path to Sodom. We were showing so much progress in convicting Jimmy Butts, Richard Scrushy, Don Siegelman, types even if letting worse offenders go unpunished in this world. Pray we stay on this more difficult, righteous path.
No one has shown more courage and decency in the matter than 59 year old Representative Gregory David Wren (District 75) who saved our State the cost and further embarrassment upon pleading guilty to his corruption. Mr. Wren also worked toward earning our forgiveness by resigning his position in the House instead of being reelected. Wren knowingly used his office to obtain confidential information then provided the information to a private company receiving a personal gain of $24k in payments (small in comparison to other corruption cases) for the information. Wren agreed to pay back the $24k in restitution to the State along with a12 month suspended sentence and two years probation.
Former Representative Wren's acceptance of responsibility and cooperation with the State to increase the probability of getting other, far more egregious offenders is worthy of note. Pray for Mr. Wren's further courage toward contrition in reducing corruption. If he does so (sufficiently rebuked in my opinion) he certainly deserves our prayers to be received as the penitent thief comforted by Jesus even as He was suffering the terrible evil of Rome and her corrupt minions. Pray most of all for those who do not have the courage and decency of Mr. Wren; looking to man's judgment which matters more to them (to continue their corruption) easily fooled and manipulated unlike God's judgment. Sad many will find this column not in keeping with their Spirit of Christmas preferring cookies, lights, presents and Santa over recognizing the evil Jesus came into the world to destroy. It is indeed the Reason for the Season and refusing to acknowledge those practicing such great sin and corruption in the State (esp. for those who benefit from the devil's work) doesn't make it OK, go away or truly venerate the Holy Spirit Christians are charged with keeping everyday and especially this time of year.