This Christmas is like no other since the Great Depression. Although the holiday is as commercialized as ever, the response of the public has been rather muted. Economic survival is on everyone’s mind, which might lead many worried Americans to start thinking of the real meaning of Christmas.
What we celebrate on Dec. 25th is the miraculous birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Messiah, who was sent to this earth to save us from our sinful natures and to offer us forgiveness of sin, salvation and eternal life after death. That, in essence, is the meaning of Christmas. And for that we can be truly joyful, regardless of the present circumstances.
And each year, the Western world is caught up in this most religious of holidays in which we celebrate with lights, music, feasting and gift-giving not the birth of Buddha or Muhammad, but the birth of Jesus Christ.
No matter how hard the humanists and atheists work to deny the religious character of the holiday, they cannot obliterate Jesus Christ. Christmas is not some dull Winter Solstice that could hardly arouse the excitement and joy of millions of souls. Christmas is the world’s celebration of God’s goodness.
Even though we humans are quite capable of making a mess of the blessings God has given us, we still acknowledge the source of all that is good. That is why it is a feast day for families, a celebration in which the sacraments of marriage, the birth and rearing of children, are recognized as gifts from God, not the government, not from Al Gore’s “Gaia.” Not from idols.
In our late, lamented consumer economy, we used our credit cards to buy not only what we needed but, even more, for what we wanted. All was done on easy credit. You could get all the gadgets you wanted and pay for them over time, sometimes forever. As long as housing prices went up and your home equity increased, it seemed like the best of all possible worlds.
And so, a lot of people who could not afford a home were able to buy one because mortgages were so easily available. Everybody was happy. The homebuilders were happy. The furniture and appliance stores were happy. The mortgage brokers were happy. The banks were happy because they could sell these mortgages to investors. But when housing prices began to decline and many homeowners could no longer make their mortgage payments, a mountain of foreclosures rendered these mortgage investments worthless.
And that is why the federal government is bailing out all of these financial institutions that bought these worthless mortgages. Some of these institutions like Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers have simply gone out of business. Others, teetering at the abyss have been saved by our secretary of the treasury. Apparently, all of those great brains on Wall Street didn’t understand basic economics. If you lend money to people who can’t pay you back, you are left holding the bag.
Of course, the Fed could have simply paid off the mortgages of people who couldn’t pay them, which would have permitted them to stay in their homes, courtesy of Uncle Sam, and the lenders would have gotten their money back. And, if in the future, the owners sold the house, the proceeds would go to the government that had paid for it. That would have been the Christmas gift to end all Christmas gifts. But that’s too simple a solution, and nobody should be awarded a house free of charge because they can’t afford to pay for it.
So the banks and financial institutions got the money from the Fed, which they can use in any way they please, and those who can’t pay their mortgages can be kicked out of their houses. The mortgage holders can then resell those houses to others at higher interest rates.
Thus, the banks, insurance companies and financial institutions have been given the greatest Christmas gift in the history of civilization. The great brains of Wall Street don’t have to suffer for their economic sins. But the poor do. Yes, it was the government that forced the banks to make these bad loans, but who can blame the poor for taking advantage of these opportunities to live the American Dream?
So what can we learn this Christmas that makes the present celebration a bittersweet one? We’ve learned that you cannot wish reality away by simply passing laws that ignore it. This great nation was built on a foundation of economic realities understood by dynamic individuals who flourished and prospered in a country that celebrated economic freedom. By departing from such basic realities, we have plunged ourselves into an abyss of disintegrating dreams and harsh times ahead. And not only for us, but for the rest of the world dependent on our go-go spending spree.
However, by celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, we acknowledge that the gifts God continues to shower on us are not bank loans to be repaid. So, how do we repay God for the gift of life? By living it for his Glory.