I must commend President Obama for getting closer this year to conveying the true message of Christmas. But how does that saying go, “Close is only good enough in horse shoes and hand grenades”?
This time last year, Obama botched his yuletide yodels.
First, unlike preceding presidents who took pride in America’s Judeo-Christian and Christmas heritage, on Dec. 24, 2009, Obama (with the first lady at his side) delivered the most brief and impotent religious admonition in the history of presidential Christmas addresses, describing the incomparable Bethlehem miracle as merely containing a benign “message of peace and brotherhood that continues to inspire more than 2,000 years after Jesus’ birth.”
Second, the president dodged and dissed the meaning of Christmas when he was visiting some children at the Boys and Girls Club in Washington, D.C. In an informal verbal exchange, two distinct times the children unexpectedly brought up to the president the real reason for the season. And both times, when he could have elaborated, explained or encouraged the heart of Christmas, he awkwardly turned the conversation to a religiously neutered subject. He even left the children with the non-Christmas admonition that “the most important message I can leave is, is that you guys have so much potential – one of you could end up being president some day!”
Even during Obama’s superstar Christmas interviews with Oprah and Gloria Estefan, there were discussions about Santa, Christmas trees, ornaments, gingerbread houses and even their dog’s Christmas stocking. He gave a Christmas shout-out to all Hispanics, but no such shout-out to the Savior of mankind.
And it seems his administration was following secular suit this past year. Just last week, the Federal Reserve ordered a small-town bank in Oklahoma to remove Christian signs and symbols on display. Examiners from the Fed deemed a Bible verse of the day, crosses on the teller’s counter and buttons that say “Merry Christmas, God with us” were completely inappropriate and needed to be removed.
Times weren’t always this way – with our presidents, the federal government or our culture.
A few months ago, when I was filming my six T-Mobile Christmas commercials at Prague in the Czech Republic, my wife, Gena, and I discovered a Christmas tradition they have that we wish was a part of our tradition in America. They still call Christmas “Christmas,” not “Happy Holidays.” And on Christmas morning they tell their children that Jesus brings the Christmas tree and Jesus brings the gifts. It really brought a great amount of joy to our hearts when we heard about that tradition. That is when we knew going there to film those commercials was a great decision.
Therefore, it was no surprise to us, when we heard that their neighbor Poland unveiled in November the tallest statue in the world of Jesus at 167-feet. (By comparison, the statue in Brazil’s Rio is 125 feet tall.) Rev. Sylwester Zawadzki, the 78-year-old priest who created the statue, said the actual figure of Jesus (without the platform on which it stands) rises 108 feet, or 33 meters – one meter for every year that Jesus lived. No wonder President Reagan once called Poland, “a land of deep religious faith.”
Poland’s Jesus statue, source: News 24
Meanwhile, back in the U.S., the Fed is trying to strip small-town America’s local banks of any Christmas decorations and meaning. And our president’s speech writers are trying to figure out how to refer enough to the birth of Christ in his Christmas addresses that others don’t think he’s a Muslim, but not smack of being too Christian, that they alienate the president’s progressive, Islamic and atheistic followers.
Though their couple speech attempts started better this December than last, both ended up neutering the soul of Christmas.
The first was during Obama’s remarks at the lighting of the National Christmas Tree on Dec. 9, 2010:
Each year we’ve come together to celebrate a story that has endured for two millennia … a message that’s universal: A child was born far from home to spread a simple message of love and redemption to every human being around the world.
So far, so good. I appreciated the president’s speech writers actually using the word “redemption.”
So I guess in the next sentence he will explain the true message of Christmas about how the Savior was born to die and redeem mankind from the power of sin and death?
Here’s Obama’s next sentence and his explanation of the Christmas message:
It’s a message that says no matter who we are or where we are from, no matter the pain we endure or the wrongs we face, we are called to love one another as brothers and as sisters.
I don’t know what Bible the president is reading, but the Christmas message is not about civil rights or social justice and welfare.
He even elaborated on that pseudo-Christmas message a few nights later, on Dec. 12, 2010, while being flanked by the first lady and his eldest daughter. The president spoke during the “Christmas in Washington” celebration at the National Building Museum in Washington, DC.:
The season reminds us that over 2,000 years ago a child born in a stable brought our world a redeeming gift of peace and salvation. It’s a story with a message that speaks to us to this day: that we are called to love each other as we love ourselves. We are our brother’s keeper and our sister’s keeper. …
In the words of President Ronald Reagan, “There you go again.”
President Obama, I hate to burst your community-coordinator caring bubble. But, while a critical part of Christ’s adult message, 30 years later after his birth, was in fact “love one another,” the story of Christmas is not about mutual or reciprocated love, but God’s love for helpless sinners. Franklin Roosevelt even said in his Christmas Message, 1942: “I say that loving our neighbor as we love ourselves is not enough – that we as a nation and as individuals will please God best by showing regard for the laws of God.”
Let me allow the angel, who spoke these words to Jesus’ earthly father Joseph in a dream, explain it as he did 2,000 years ago: “Mary will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Or as the angel foretold to the shepherds in the field: “Today in the town of Bethlehem a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”
Mr. President, with Christmas just a few days away, it’s not too late to ante up and get it right. You might have the best opportunity in some years as your weekly address this week falls right on Christmas morning. In fact, I think I’ll even put a pause on my family’s reading of the biblical Christmas story in expectation that you’ll set the mood by reading it!
And if your speech writers are on Christmas break and you need a script for your teleprompters, why not just cite a president who didn’t milk down the specifics of the story or his Christian faith, Ronald Reagan, here in his Christmas Address from Dec. 12, 1981, televised and on radio from the Oval Office to the entire nation and world.
At this special time of year, we all renew our sense of wonder in recalling the story of the first Christmas in Bethlehem, nearly 2,000 year ago. Some celebrate Christmas as the birthday of a great and good philosopher and teacher. Others of us believe in the divinity of the child born in Bethlehem, that he was and is the promised Prince of Peace. … Like the shepherds and wise men of that first Christmas, we Americans have always tried to follow a higher light, a star, if you will. At lonely campfire vigils along the frontier, in the darkest days of the Great Depression, through war and peace, the twin beacons of faith and freedom have brightened the American sky. At times our footsteps may have faltered, but trusting in God’s help, we’ve never lost our way. … So, let this holiday season be for us a time of rededication. … Tonight, in millions of American homes, the glow of the Christmas tree is a reflection of the love [of] Jesus. … Let those candles remind us that these blessings bring with them a solid obligation, an obligation to the God who guides us … Christmas means so much because of one special child.