nativity.jpg

Children at a Ripon church present a nativity scene at a recent Christmas pageant.

This Friday, hundreds of Ripon-area residents will attend churches to celebrate Christmas Eve, the coming of Christ.

They will sing hymns such as “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem,” “What Child is This” and that reminder of the baby’s unique birthsite, “Away in a Manger.”

That Jesus’ arrival exists in the most modest of cribs — a wooden trough designed to hold fodder for livestock — is no coincidence.

The metaphor is the message. From the most humble beginnings came the most powerful edict: Peace on earth and goodwill toward men.

Not bad, from an infant who many, in Ripon and worldwide, regard to be the world’s savior, wonderful counselor, prince of peace — the son of God.

We hold his birth sacred because it marks the beginning of our own understanding, by virtue of his life’s words and deeds, how here on earth God’s work can truly be our own. But to discern God’s will through Jesus’ life, we turn to the gospels.

In those first four books of the New Testament we learn that Jesus encourages us to love God by caring for one another and taking care of those in need.

That prescription for our earthly behavior is as radical as it is simple.

We are commanded to love, not exercise our autonomy.

Yet our humanness calls us to look out for No. 1 by touting our independence and freedom. That’s our heaven; to hell with the others.

In the name of Jesus we God-fearing Americans insist on our God-given liberty:

  • Freedom to arm ourselves with semi-automatic weapons so we can threaten if not shoot others if we need to.
  • Freedom to not be vaccinated from Covid despite 1. nearly full ICUs; 2. the risk that our decision threatens those we love, and; 3. encouraging community spread that can lead to viral mutations that theoretically can override others’ vaccinations.
  • Freedom to live in a democracy in which elections now are contested by the losers, legislative districts are skewed to favor a particular party, money speaks louder than voters, and incivility trumps courtesy, respect and compromise.
  • Freedom to demean the vulnerable and marginalized — refugees, even — who are poorer, darker skinned, of a different faith and from “s***-hole countries” less affluent than our own.
  • Freedom to collectively spend more money than our nation can afford, knowing the tab will be picked up by future generations, who right now owe more than $229,700 per taxpayer just to pay off our ever-mounting national debt.
  • Freedom to cede our adult responsibilities so we can legalize another drug, defund police, use buzz words about “Brandon” to curse our president, champion casual sex in our popular culture and put on pedestals false gods from TV, movies, popular music and sports who glorify self over selflessness.

* * *

It’s no coincidence Christmas comes toward the end of the year, reminding us that through our faith our foibles are forgiven, our slate of sins wiped clean and, with a new year beginning, we can resolve to do better.

In 2022 we can worry less about the guy in the mirror than the guy across the street.

We can gladly give up some freedom if it means someone else will be safer and healthier.

We can learn how to love as the baby Jesus taught us, lying helplessly in animal feed, yet surrounded by people — truly wise men — who knew that when that baby had been born, a Son was given.

And he would grow up instructing us how to live and love, if we would just listen.

May your Christmas be blessed by the respect of others, informed by a Jesus who lies in our hearts, providing that still, quiet voice that whispers, “Love others as you love yourself. And blessed be the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”

Hark! The herald angels sing,

“Glory to the newborn King;

Peace on earth, and mercy mild,

God and sinners reconciled!”

— Tim Lyke

(6) comments

David Perkins

Clueless for $500 Sallie..err...Alex.

Neil Averitt

Congratulations to this editorial for its rounded presentation of the moral and social teachings of Jesus, which draws on and combines all four gospels.

This is an excellent approach, but also one that can be applied more generally to all the material in the gospels.

The life and teachings of Jesus are at the core of Christian beliefs, but reading about them is difficult because the story is spread among the four accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and must be mentally assembled from the four sources.

Help can be found in a long-neglected genre of Christian writing – the “harmony.” This is a consolidated text that uses all the words and only the words of the four gospels, but edits them together into a single narrative in chronological order. This offers several attractive features.

First of all, a consolidated text makes the gospels easier for the new reader to follow. It puts events into their natural sequence, so that the birth at Bethlehem is followed by the visit of the wise men, even if those are recorded in separate accounts. It also brings together all the material about a complex incident, such as Jesus’ climactic interview with Pilate.

Second, it makes the gospels accessible to multiple audiences. The story becomes open to people of faith, who can treat a harmony as a devotional work or study guide to the individual gospels; and also to members of the secular world, who will find an easy way to read an essential work of our culture, basic to so much art and literature; and to our Jewish friends, who will find an account of an influential First Century reform rabbi.

Third, a consolidated text invites a new or usefully updated translation. This can aim to be clear on first reading, while also presenting familiar passages from the original King James, or from common figures of speech, in their familiar form.

Many excellent consolidated texts are on the market, and a reader can find one based on any standard Bible desired. I have written one such text myself, The Single Gospel, which prioritizes a smooth narrative showing cultural continuity. Other texts can be found that emphasize other qualities, such as maintaining individual sources in parallel columns.

Any of these provides a good point of entry to Christian spirituality and tradition.

Neil Averitt

Sallie Helmer

American is the greatest country on earth exactly because America’s laws support God-given ‘inalienable’ rights and freedoms.

While there is not a specific list of rights that are considered inalienable in the Constitution, there are some rights that are generally accepted as natural rights of man.

To act in self-defense

To own private property

To work and enjoy the fruits of one’s labor

To move freely within the county or to another country

To worship or refrain from worshipping within a freely-chosen religion

To be secure in one’s home

To think freely

Freedom from tyranny, freedom to have religious objections to vaccinations, freedom to live in a Republic—where majority rule is subject to laws that protect the few. We have laws made by the peoples’ representatives that protect our borders from invasion. Freedom to investigate fraud in elections. I could go on about the 2016 unending investigations after that election. If you vote for spenders you get spending— that is on you for voting for politicians who tell you up front they are going to spend so a ‘socialist paradise’ can be attained.

Don’t complain about me bringing politics into religion, at least be honest about this editorial which twisted Christianity into something that it isn’t.

Without Jesus Christ there is no Christmas. The Bible says to give to the poor— not to give to government and then let them distribute it as they want.

Jesus came to earth to save us from our sins. This gift is given to everyone all we need to do is ask for forgiveness.

Carol Cate

Ms. Helmer, your humanness is on full display with your post! Merry Christmas....

Dale Failor

WOW.

Carol Cate

Thank you Mr. Lyke for your reminder of what Christmas and every day after Christmas is to be about. In many ways such a simple message, but such a hard thing to live!

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