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Christmas — What does it mean?

By Dr. Larry FedewaDrLarryOnline.com

As we look around at the Christmas decorations, programs, ceremonies, shopping, cards, greetings and the whole Christmas season, what messages do we get? What does it all mean?

Clearly, something unusual and good is in the air. People seem friendlier, parties and benefits are everywhere. Charities, soap kitchens, and the Salvation Army are busier than usual.

When we think of the origin of Christmas, we realize that it began as a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Today, however, it is possible to go through the entire Christmastime without ever hearing that name. Many children are taught that the central figure of Christmas is Santa Claus on his mission of kindness and goodwill.

So, what about this Jesus Christ? Is he still important, even relevant?

Well, we know he must be important if much of the world still celebrates his birthday which happened two millennia ago. With a little research, we can discover that much of the world still belongs to the organization he founded, namely, the Christian church in its many variations.

Why? Why is this man’s influence still felt after so many centuries?

That is a harder question to answer. And there are many answers, some officially pronounced by church authorities, some by individuals. Ultimately, each person must give his/her own answer.

This is my answer.

Christians believe that Jesus Christ was God-come-to-earth, God’s creation of the perfect man. That idea has a richness that confirms our value as human beings, because “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son”, as John’s gospel tells us. In Jesus, we have been given a vision of the perfect human being, the assurance that such a being CAN exist in spite of all the evil and pettiness we see around us. The coming of Jesus calls us all to a higher version of ourselves, a better self. The coming of Jesus set the standard of human behavior much higher than it had been before. All of us have our failures as human beings, but the fact of Jesus Christ allows us to better understand when we fail and gives us hope that we – and other people, as well — can do better, can be more like the Christ.

Then there is his story. We have only pieces of his story — bio-sketches in the gospels, along with some of his key teachings. Some of the things that happened in that story are fundamentally shocking.

He could have come to earth as Superman, but he didn’t. He came as a helpless little baby. He chose to be born poor – not the first choice of most of us. He worked his way up in the world by his words, backed up by his works – both of which were extraordinary.

He chose peaceful rebellion instead of military force. He forgave his enemies. He called everyone his brother (or sister). And he worked miracles on occasion to demonstrate that he had the power to do otherwise but chose kindness and mercy rather than violence and force.

So, they killed him. But then he did the most spectacular deed of all: he rose from the dead!

Therein lie the lessons of the perfect man: powerful yet humble, peaceful yet killed by violence, defeated yet triumphant, defining victory as resurrection rather than domination. His message is an interpretation of human life at odds with everything the world teaches us about a successful life. It is a call to become a better person.

The transcendent lesson however is pretty clear: We are all going to die. What will matter then is how we lived. How closely to that perfect human being have we been able to become?

Christmas celebrates the coming of God to earth, to us. It is a thrilling realization that this event happened, this event that brings hope and joy and forgiveness into our lives and gives us a vision of the mountain top from which we can launch our own resurrection. If God so loved us, then we are all worth loving, we all can love fearlessly, completely and happily.

We celebrate and give each other gifts as a recognition of God’s love for each of us, of your value as a person loved by God and loved by me – a value which was revealed once and for all on the day that God sent his Son to be born in a manger in Bethlehem some 2000 years ago

So, yes, Christmas is still relevant in 2018.
MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL!


Behold Two Paintings That Show A Miraculous Christmas Meeting

Two historic women, one old and one young, were the first to welcome and praise the Savior of the world. And two glorious paintings communicate the beauty of these wondrous events.

By Glenn T. StantonThe Federalist

If quizzed “Who was the first person to welcome Jesus and announce his lordship?” how would you answer? It’s an important question when we consider that this man from the nowhere town of Nazareth is the most consequential individual ever.

His teaching and followers across the globe radically transformed world culture, toppled great powers without ever firing a shot, established the world of humanitarianism and accessible medical care for commoners, inspired the scientific method, and enlivened the world movements for justice, human dignity, and individual freedom. He literally divides history and is responsible for the founding of the largest, most diverse collection of people around some basic ideals.

This all started with two women no one had ever heard of, whose life-altering experiences are now illustrated in two exquisite works of art. Mary, a humble, young virgin, by tradition about 14 years old at the time, is told by an angel she will give birth to the very Son of God. At this striking news, she “arose and went with haste” to see her cherished relative, Elizabeth, some 90 miles away.

Elizabeth was in the sixth month of her own miraculous pregnancy, for she was well past child-bearing years. Of course, her baby was Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist.

The beauty of this part of the Christmas story is the miracle that happens the moment Mary enters Elizabeth’s home. Christ is recognized, received, proclaimed, and worshiped, and Mary and Elizabeth are not the only two involved in the divine drama here. We read in Luke 1:41-44:

And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.

This is a major event in Jesus’ story and thus the Christian church, but we seldom appreciate it as such. It is the first time Jesus is both proclaimed and worshiped as God! This was done, we are told, “in a loud voice.” And Christ the Lord is worshiped by two people at the same time — one very old, one super young.

The First to Proclaim Jesus’ Lordship

Elizabeth proclaims the blessedness of Jesus and his mother. The simple but world-changing confession, “Jesus is Lord,” was the first and most basic way Christians began to proclaim their faith and greet one another in the church’s early years. It was the first Christian creed, and Elizabeth was the first to proclaim it, long before Christmas morning. Think on that for a moment.

The second greeting is even more incredible and speaks to an intimate relationship in the Savior’s life. Baby John leaps for joy, literally, at the coming of the Savior. He does so as a child in the darkness of his mother’s womb. (Yes, Christianity has profoundly strong words for the humanity and dignity of the unborn child in John and Jesus’ remarkable in utero contribution to the good news.)

John did not start serving as the forerunner of Christ when preaching about his coming in the desert. It was here, in the womb. And it was two very common mothers, Elizabeth and Mary, who experienced this remarkable, history-changing event. It happened in distinctly womanly interiors of their hearts and wombs, and in the humbleness of Elizabeth’s home. Humble motherhood and the intimate bond only mothers can share is the human font of the Christian story.

To be sure, the Christian church, which is often incorrectly charged with being sexist by people who know little of its actual story, is founded upon two women being the first to welcome and praise the Savior. (Remember as well, it was a small group of women who announced the “second birth” of the Savior, if you will, at his resurrection.) What other major faith or philosophy has women playing such a significant role in its founding? I cannot think of one.

Two famous paintings communicate the beauty of these wondrous events, “The Annunciation” and “The Visitation.” The first African-American painter to achieve significant critical acclaim, Henry Ossawa Tanner, created both. He is a remarkable man and one of my favorite artists.

Christmas paintings by Henry O. Tanner

‘The Annunciation’

One of the things I like best in Tanner’s two works here is that he shows us the simple humanness of Mary and Elizabeth. They are not supernatural, other-worldly, saintly subjects in the typical sense. Tanner’s images show us the regular, everyday women they were.

Christmas Painting The Annunciation

He will not allow us to miss the youth, innocence, and commonness of our Mary. Tanner doesn’t give her a facial expression communicating anything obvious. Is she scared? Stunned? Joyful? Solemn? His Mary is more complex than many artists’ as is undoubtably true of the actual event. Tanner has her communicating all these feelings and struggles at once.

When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary with this most startling news, he found a teenage girl living a typical teenage girl’s life. The greatest royal announcement in the history of the universe takes place in this teen girl’s humble bedroom, illuminated by the majesty of God’s oracle. That is precisely what Tanner gives us, and it’s just stunning. Also, his technique in presenting the folds and flow of her gown and bed coverings is nothing short of magnificent.

‘The Visitation’

As wonderful as Tanner’s “Annunciation” is, his “Visitation” is even more striking.

Just look at it and consider what’s happening here.

When Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.

Christmas painting The Visitation

Tanner allows us personally to witness this event. Elizabeth most likely did not have any notice that Mary was coming or the grand news that prompted the visit. She sits at the table on an ordinary day, when she hears Mary possibly utter what any of us likely would as she comes to the door, “Liz, you home?”

Elizabeth’s divine surprise and wonder is dramatically communicated simply in her uplifted hands. It’s a glorious device. Are they hands of praise or surprise? Certainly both at the same time.

This simple scene of a surprise family visitation and domesticity is the first scene of Jesus being worshiped. Reflect on this a moment. The event we are witnessing right here in this kitchen is the initiation of what the rest of history and eternity will be about, the worship of the second person of the divine Trinity: Jesus, the Father’s beloved Son.

The interchange between these two women in this domestic setting is unspeakably profound. We typically move over it far too easily, wanting to get onto what we see as the center of the Christmas story, the manger.

This exchange is also vitally important because it is the first revelation of Christ beyond Mary’s heart and womb. It is the precise second and scene that commenced the worship of the Son of the God that will continue without end into eternity, the story that encapsulates a Christian’s whole reality.

P.S. Tanner Lived in Philadelphia

I knew Tanner lived in Philadelphia for some time, so on a business trip there some years ago, I wanted to see if his house was discoverable. It was, and I found it, right around the corner from John Coltrane’s home. How cool is that?

Henry O. Tanner house


‘Merry Christmas,’ Not ‘Happy Holidays’

Political correctness is humbug. Wishing goodwill to all is not an insult.

By Henry E. Brown, Republican congressman from South Carolina     •     USNews

grinch-hates-christmasEarlier this month, as I recorded a message to our troops and sent Christmas cards to family and friends, I found myself hesitating before using “Merry Christmas” to wish those important to me a blessed holiday. I was brought up in a Christian home where we celebrated Christmas and its many traditions. Until recently, I had never thought twice before wishing others “Merry Christmas.” Communities across the country are abuzz with the “acceptable” way to observe this holiday season, but why should those who celebrate Christmas feel pressure to say “Season’s greetings” or “Happy holidays,” reluctant to express traditional Christmas words of good cheer?

I am troubled by the sentiment that the phrase “Merry Christmas” is not appropriate and concerned by the ­limits placed on the expression of the traditions and symbols associated with this national holiday. For me, Christmas is one of our most important holidays, not only because of Christianity’s influence on our nation’s founding but also because of the Christmas message of “peace on Earth, goodwill to men.” To downplay this holiday can only be construed as an attempt to minimize its origin. While the commercialization of the Christmas season floods our cities with beautiful light displays and decorations of Santa and his reindeer, we must not forget that the true meaning and significance of Christmas is the birth of Christ. Continue reading


A College’s War on Christmas Parties

The University of Tennessee at Knoxville warned students to not throw Christmas parties because someone might somehow be offended.

by Robby Soave     •     The Daily Beast

Another holiday, another opportunity for college administrators to trample students’ free expression rights as part of some comically misguided effort to prevent offense. Last week, the University of Tennessee at Knoxville issued a breathtakingly Scrooge-ish (Scrooge-ian? Scrooge-esque?) piece of advice: “Ensure your holiday party is not a Christmas party in disguise.”

The diversity officers who wrote this instruction must have a lot of extra time on their hands, because eradicating secret Yuletide gatherings doesn’t exactly seem like a pressing higher education issue.

The university, thankfully, has since re-discovered its Christmas spirit, but not before inspiring bewilderment and anger among some students, as well as quite a few Republican politicians who hysterically interpret any slight against Christmas as an attack on Christianity itself. U.S. Republican Rep. John Duncan had this to say: Continue reading


Reagan’s Christmas Messages

“In this day, when our freedom to worship is most precious, let us redouble our efforts to bring this and other greatest freedoms to all the peoples of the Earth.” (1988)

C26233-24

by Scott L. Vanatter

Ronald Reagan believed in Americans. He believed in the promise of America, that Americans possessed the inherent and acquired power to rise to the occasion. This, because of the overt and unique design of the Founders to foster freedom and responsibility. Reagan was optimistic about America’s future. He believed that when freedom flourishes, responsibility and accomplishment would naturally follow. (Sometimes to the astonishment and even delight of our greatest skeptics.) Others assume the opposite; they believe that force or coercion is necessary to accomplish their ends.

Reagan also believed in the spirit of Christmas. This unique season — filled with wonder, lights, music and children’s faces and hearts — lifts our hearts and fosters the better angels of our nature. He believed in its symbolic power to help us see and reach into the core of what it means to be an American. Both for believers and non-believers in the Babe born in Bethlehem. Continue reading


Ronald Reagan’s Christmas Messages

“In this day, when our freedom to worship is most precious, let us redouble our efforts to bring this and other greatest freedoms to all the peoples of the Earth.” (1988)

C26233-24

by Scott L. Vanatter

Ronald Reagan believed in Americans. He believed in the promise of America, that Americans possessed the inherent and acquired power to rise to the occasion. This, because of the overt and unique design of the Founders to foster freedom and responsibility. Reagan was optimistic about America’s future. He believed that when freedom flourishes, responsibility and accomplishment would naturally follow. (Sometimes to the astonishment and even delight of our greatest skeptics.) Others assume the opposite; they believe that force or coercion is necessary to accomplish their ends. Continue reading


How to be Rich Without Scrooge’s Money

It's a Wonderful LifeGeorge Bailey vs. Ebenezer Scrooge

by Gordon S. Jones

“At this season of the rolling year” every community theater in America is playing either some variant of A Christmas Carol or It’s a Wonderful Life. And that doesn’t count the 1,736 movies of one or the other of them available on television and (in a few cases) in actual theaters.

So as I take up the chains for my presentation of Marley’s Ghost in the Sugar Factory Playhouse production of The Dickens Christmas Carol Show, I am reminded of my son the philosopher’s dissection of the differences between George Bailey and Old Ebenezer, and why while we can’t be the latter, we all have it within us to be the former.

Here it is for your edification.

George Bailey vs. Ebenezer Scrooge:  We Need a Little Christmas — Now!

by Christopher John Harrison Jones

Christmastime spawns a certain type of movie.  You’ll be familiar with the formula: bad man acts contrary to societally-accepted norms, terrible (humorous, scary…) events transpire, bad man has change of heart and embraces all mankind (his family, his potential family…).  It’s a good formula.  It taps into very powerful archetypes.  It generates good revenue.  All of us have done bad things, and most of us want to change and become better. Continue reading


The Left’s Anti-Religion and anti-Christmas Hate Speech

by George Landrithgrinch-hates-christmas

Every December, when outdoor temperatures are dropping, prominent atheists are using the approaching Christmas holiday as an excuse to stoke the flames of the culture war. It happens every year like clock work. This year is no different.

One of the most outrageous examples happened a few years ago. Dan Barker, the Co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation (based in Wisconsin) traveled to Olympia, Washington to post an anti-Christmas sign next to a nativity display at the state capitol. For the record, there is also a Menorah on display and a large “Holiday Tree” which is part of a local business’ charitable effort to benefit poor children. Barker dismissed the idea that his sign was merely another religious display. He said, “It is not a religious display. It is an attack on religion.”  Continue reading


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