December 22, 2015

Christmas is Still About Christ, Freedom, and Salvation

by Donald G. Mashburn

After tripping on their own political correctness in past years, some of the biggest of the Bigs among retailers, such as Wal-Mart, Lowe’s and Target, seemed to have seen the light on what Christmas means to some of their customers. But only after they were smartly “bah-ed and humbugged” by customers who didn’t like the retailers’ avoidance of “Christmas” in their ads and store displays.

Although “Happy Holidays” has made deep inroads into the wishes for “Merry Christmas,” it seems that, overall, there is more acceptance of the idea that Christmas is about the coming of the Christ Child, who would become the Savior of the World, the Prince of Peace.

Still, however, Nativity scenes in public places still bring knee-jerk reactions from the more intolerant. And in schools, signs depicting or naming Christ in Christmas plays, students’ drawings, and banners are enough to bring on a case of the vapors for the Christ-intolerant and their supporters. They and their unwitting allies have, for many, hijacked the traditional Christmas season.

The hijacking has been facilitated by the commercial orgy that has distorted what Christmas used to mean to most of us. It’s no wonder that in the minds of many students – and, sadly, many adults – the real meaning and substance of Christmas have become blurred.

The hijackers are led by both atheistic and politically-correct groups, supported by the likes of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the National Education Association (NEA), and their ilk in their efforts to ban any sign of Christ in schools and public places.

But the real substance of Christmas – the Christ of Christmas – is not a banner, a tree, or a manmade display. The real meaning of Christmas is what it means to those who believe that Jesus came from God to die on the cross to atone for our sins and the sins of the world.

They also believe in a Constitutional right to the free exercise of their religion, and they oppose efforts to discriminate against them for doing so. They object to the discriminatory actions of school administrators banning or prohibiting anything with Christian significance, while approving decisions to permit Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, and Islamic displays.

Christians do feel discriminated against, when anti-Christian activists protest hearing or seeing any public display or mention of the name of Jesus. Schools that banned “Merry Christmas” claimed its “religious significance” somehow violated the separation of church and state. One reportedly removed “Christmas” from its calendar so students would not be exposed to the “Christ” part of “Christmas.”

Christian hymns, such as “Silent Night,” can put some school administrators, and a few anti-Christian parents, into a tizzy.

In the liberal world of political-correctness-gone-goofy, “Happy Holidays” fits the season of commercialism better than “Merry Christmas.” But only short years ago, Christmas had special meaning: It was the day we celebrated the coming of the Savior of the world, the Prince of Peace, “Immanuel, ... God with us.” (Matthew 1:23)

Those who are cynical and intolerant of the Christ of Christmas should take a close look at this Jesus, who although He Himself was sinless, willingly suffered the agony and shame of the cross for our sins.

And the empty tomb gave irrefutable and timeless testimony that He was who He said He was, the Son of God. And the empty tomb was evidence that God accepted His perfect sacrifice, and that He was worthy in God’s sight to be the Redeemer of imperfect mankind.

This historical, resurrected Christ does not live in the commercial tinsel and glitter of the secularized “Christmas Season.” He lives in the hearts of changed men, women and children whose lives have been transformed by the teachings, life, death and resurrection of the babe born in a manger on that first Christmas night.

His miracles have continued in divinely transformed lives, from the first martyr, Stephen, and the martyred apostles, to those who witness and stand for what’s right today. These changed lives attest to the divinity, power and real meaning of the Christ whose coming we celebrate on Christmas.

Christmas without Christ is empty. Against His life, death and resurrection, the worldly trappings of Christmas fade to nothing. If we see Christmas only as a time to acquire “stuff,” we rob ourselves of the real meaning of Christmas. The stuff acquired at Christmas, and in life, is of no lasting significance – a one-day garage sale will take care of most of it after we’re gone.

The meaning of Christmas is too important to miss: Christ came; He loved us enough to suffer and die for us; and He’s coming again!

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A Short Christmas Prayer

Lord, at this time when we celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace, and when there is so much violence and strife, let each of us know your peace and let us then be led to share that peace in love as we assist those in need, and spread the Light of your message of salvation.

And Lord, as we reach out to others, and wish them “Merry Christmas” in love and good will, may we love them, forgive them, and help them when we can, never looking for credit to ourselves, but praying only that they see Christ with us, Christ in us, Christ above all. Amen!

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ALGOA BAY AT DAWN

To see South Africa's southern coast
One should not pass in haste.
For between its highland beauty and
Antarctica's frozen waste,

Lies an azure gem you should see
Before you travel on,
Set in a new day’s tinted glow
It's Algoa Bay at dawn.

It's around the point, and east a ways
Of the storied, world-famed Cape
Of Good Hope, then southeast a bit
Of the Great Karoo landscape.

Almost due south of Kimberly,
Where diamonds first see day,
Lies this beauty, blue and deep,
We call Algoa Bay.

South and west from Durbin's sands
At the Cape Province south shore
Where Sunday's River flows to sea
To be a stream no more.

From Port Elizabeth's shallow surf,
To dark-hued azure deep,
Fishing boats plumb its lower depths,
And its seafood bounties reap.

Its gentle swells can promise peace
But at times it’s far from still.
For it can be a wild, wave-crested thing,
As if acting with a will.

Made wild by stormy southeast winds,
And churned to a frenzy wroth,
Wave after wave beat at the shore,
With angry, wind-blown froth.

In time, Algoa's frenzy's gone
And it returns to a placid state,
As soon as the wild southeastern winds
Spend their anger and abate.

So for a feast for eye and mind,
And before the first light’s gone,
Take time to see this unique place,
Algoa Bay at dawn.

At end of day let Morpheus draw
Curtains for a peaceful rest,
While Algoa's surf soothes with its song,
Through sleep so deep and blessed

But, arise! Before the sun comes up,
And before you travel on,
To see the gem-like beauty of
Algoa Bay at dawn.

- Donald G. Mashburn

In this political season voters should not support politicians who cut deals or cut corners.

We don’t need bluster and bombast in a president, we need someone who tells the truth and is honest with the people.

Ranchers sell “baloney bulls” and know both baloney and bull, so they can see through politicians who serve up so much during election campaigns.

Truth is a trustworthy and loyal companion, once we decide to stay hitched to her.

Skimming the surface won’t get to the truth; it’s what’s in the bucket when you’ve dipped deep.

Life without a goal is like a climbing rose without a trellis.

Success can’t keep all its promises; failure can’t hold out against determination.

In your pursuit of happiness, try to create and spread some along the way.

Success is not a sure ticket to happiness, and failure doesn’t keep us from getting on the train.

We have a Constitutional right to the pursuit of happiness, but how we handle the rough spots of despair and hardship is up to us.

If the best things in life are free, why do fresh watermelons in the supermarket cost so much?

You can’t control the current of the river, so concentrate on paddling your canoe.

Being broke ain’t the worst thing that can happen to you, but it can be down there close to being cold, hungry, and lonely.

You can’t insure your character, but a low-cost alternative is just learning to say “No.”

We can’t choose the obstacles of life, but we can choose to trust the One who can help us over them.

Expect a lot of Burger King Rhetoric this election season, with one Whopper after another.

It’s not fair to call a politician a skunk – skunks usually don’t raise a stink if you leave them alone.

It’s a lot easier to say “No” to temptations than to explain them later.

A man can’t stand for much if he’s lying.

If your choices please God, you’ll find that you also please yourself and those who know you.

I learned from some beautiful people God put in my life that forgiveness is love in its most noble form.

Love isn’t explained; it’s lived and explains itself.

The measure of a life is not about how much you can get, but about how much you can give.

Of the gifts we can give to others, giving one’s self is the most precious and priceless.

“Love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12).

Belittling another person only makes the belittler smaller.

It takes a very small person to belittle another to make himself feel significant.

Humility is the seedbed of character; kindness is the fruit of character.

Ego is an invader, and if cleft unchecked it choke out character.

Using common sense and dealing fairly with other may puzzle some, but you’ll sleep well at night.