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December 25, 2007

The Shepherd’s Christmas

“How many observe Christ’s birth-day! How few, his precepts! O! ‘tis easier to keep Holidays than Commandments.” –Benjamin Franklin

Happy Christmahanakwamadan!

The Patriot coined “Christmahanakwamadan” a few years back, in response, albeit ludicrous, to the fashionable PC crowd’s demands for “inclusive” greetings. They insist the word “Christmas” is too ethnocentric for corporate use, and that it would violate the phony “Wall of Separation” should a government employee accidentally utter it.

Needless to say, here in our humble shop, as in our homes, it’s still “Merry Christmas,” and it’ll stay that way so long as we’re able to draw breath.

For me, the real meaning of the word “Christmas” begins with life in our home.

My wife and I are raising three children, ages nine to fourteen. They attend three different schools and have different interests and pursuits. Suffice it to say that with their schedules and ours – educational, professional, ministerial and social – life at home is anything but boring. However, the blessings of marriage and fatherhood are greater than I ever imagined.

Amid all the daily rush, we rarely miss supper together, and our meals all start with prayers for our nation, for those defending our country and their families back home, and for the special needs of our family, friends and others. We always end by praying for “grateful hearts and joyful spirits,” that we would be grateful in heart to God, who provides all, and joyful in spirit as a reflection of that gratitude.

Therein, I believe, resides the essence of Christmas, the celebration of God’s provision of his Son, that we would have a perfect example of our Creator’s love for us, and, accordingly, both gratitude and joy.

As parents, we attempt to model for our children the Christian principle of third personhood – God first, others second, ourselves third – and we occasionally achieve that objective. We ask ourselves in all endeavors, “Whom do I serve?”

We hope, by the grace of God, that on the other end of their young lives in our home, our children will be adults who have an abiding relationship with their Heavenly Father, who have a strong sense of their heritage and the price of the liberty they enjoy, who fulfill their obligations as citizens, who have learned the merits of hard work, and whose lives are characterized by their sense of duty, honor, discernment, courage, personal responsibility, generosity and compassion.

These, after all, were the core individual attributes embodied by our nation’s Founders, and our country has thrived on this foundation for more than 230 years.

George Washington wrote, “[E]very American … [should] bear in mind that his conduct will not only affect himself, his country, and his immediate posterity; but that its influence may be co-extensive with the world, and stamp political happiness or misery on ages yet unborn.”

It is from these attributes that The Patriot Post’s Statement of Principles is derived, as is our mission of advocacy for individual liberty, the restoration of constitutional limits on government and the judiciary, and the promotion of free enterprise, national defense and traditional American values.

Having been sustained by the blood of generations of Patriots, our nation holds in trust the essential doctrines of liberty and democracy, but past performance is no guarantee of future returns. We must equip current and future generations with the same attributes that have proven favorable to the cause of liberty in our past.

That’s where you, our Patriot readers, play such an important role.

You are American Patriots, and you hail from all walks of life. You “hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

You are moms, dads and other family members nurturing the next generation of young Patriots. You are grassroots leaders and local, state and national officeholders. You are students and professors at colleges and universities, often standing alone for what is good and right. You are employees and employers and professionals. You are in ministry at home and missionaries abroad. You are Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen standing in harm’s way around the world.

We are humbled to count you among our ranks.

At the end of each edition of The Patriot Post, my signature card notes, “Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus, et Fidelis” – “Always Vigilant, Brave, Prepared and Faithful.”

To that I must add, “et Gratus” – and Grateful.

We are eternally grateful to God for all his provisions, and that includes YOU, our Patriot countrymen, for the privilege of serving you since The Patriot’s inception.

Of course, we endeavor to do much more than “preach to the choir,” and we are grateful to you for having introduced countless peers to the sound constitutional doctrine advocated by The Patriot.

However, these are difficult times for Patriots, as in times past. We face daunting challenges from both enemies abroad and domestic. Yet we are buoyed by the words of Samuel Adams: “Let us consider, brethren, we are struggling for our best birthrights and inheritance… Let us disappoint the Men who are raising themselves on the ruin of this Country.” For those unwilling to join our historic Patriot ranks, Adams said, “If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animating contest of freedom – go from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands, which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen!”

Thank you again for standing with us. I invite you now to take a moment and read our Christmas message.

Topic Blog: Christmas 2007 – The Shepherd’s Christmas

If you were to wish us “Happy Holidays,” we would puzzle over which one you meant. Independence Day? Constitution Day? Thanksgiving? Easter? Christmas? Our Patriot mission is to keep kindled the flame of liberty our Founders sparked on this continent, and we believe that all these national celebrations should unite us in gratitude to God for all the blessings He has showered upon our free land.

John Quincy Adams asserted, “In the chain of human events, the birthday of the nation is indissolubly linked with the birthday of the Saviour.”

Indeed, most of the Founders held these commemorations to be all of a piece, and that the events told and foretold in Scripture are true, fit as cornerstones for faith and governing principles.

Luke, in his Gospel, attests to the historical evidence for the Nativity, taken from “eyewitnesses” who could verify “the certainty” (Luke 1:1-4). Among the first eyewitnesses Luke cites were “shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night,” to whom an angel suddenly appeared, announcing the birth of Christ the Lord and providing directions to His location. After visiting the Holy Child, the shepherds related their experiences to those living in the surrounding countryside (Luke 2:8-20).

Can we fathom the events of that first Christmas, the wonder of that night in the spiritual and earthly realms as angels and shepherds shared praises to God? Was the night sky quiet, pierced only by starlight? Was the Holy Star already illuminating the fields around Bethlehem with its miraculous shining? The shepherds certainly were startled from the serenity of their nightly watch. When they found the Holy Family, did they find the Babe sleeping, warmed by the steady, sweet breath of stabled sheep?

The sometimes disputed date of 25 December for Christmas has secular historians arguing that that day was chosen to supersede celebration of the winter solstice festival natalis solis invicti. But others contend that the Christian observance, first mentioned in a Roman almanac dated AD 336, is the original, which the pagans adopted; St. John Chrysostom, Patriarch of Constantinople, who died in AD 407, noted that Christians from early church days had observed that day as the anniversary of the birth of Jesus.

In colonial America, Christmas observances split across enclaves of different religious faiths.

Our name for this Holy Day arises from the old English Cristes Maesse, and the holiday was first observed in Early America among the Anglicans, Roman Catholics, Lutherans and Moravians, who settled predominantly in the Middle Atlantic colonies and the South.

However, New England colonial authorities, influenced by Puritan and Calvinist beliefs of the day, outlawed Christmas from 1649 until 1658. The General Court of Massachusetts in 1659 set a fine of five shillings per offense, punishing the observance “of any such day as Christmas or the like, either by forebearing of labour, feasting, or any such way.” Contemporaneously, the Assembly of Connecticut forbade the reading of the Book of Common Prayer, the keeping of Christmas and saints days, the making of mince pies, the playing of cards, or performing on any musical instruments. Interestingly, though, Massachusetts was the first state to declare Christmas a legal holiday – in 1856. Within a few years, most of our shared national traditions were set, and Christmas became a federal holiday under President Ulysses S. Grant in 1870.

According to the Bible’s account, representatives from only two occupational groups visited Baby Jesus – shepherds and kings – and rightly so, as He was prophesied to arise from the line of David, Israel’s first Shepherd-King (i.e. Isaiah 11:1). During his later ministry, Jesus declared, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep” (John 10:11). And, of course, a beloved Bible passage describes God’s care for His children in Psalm 23, beginning, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”

Stables were often hollowed out within cave walls. Sheepfolds, similarly, were frequently chosen from sites shielded by encircling rocky hills, with shepherds guarding a passageway side. But why did Jesus the prophesied Messiah come primarily as a shepherd instead of as a king? His earthly lifetime mission fooled many who awaited His coming. Shepherds were despised in those days. The Israelite patriarch Joseph counseled his family members, newly reunited with him in Egypt, to make themselves seem harmless by claiming this line of work, “for every shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians” (Genesis 46:34).

Jesus came first as a shepherd, for humility in leadership and tender, caring protection of His people. That servant-leadership model of willing self-sacrifice greatly influenced our Founders at the outset of our country’s development.

Of consequence is that George Washington was both a soldier and a farmer who, when he took the oath of the Presidency, rejected any royal tint or trappings for his office. He exhibited great humility during the American Revolution. Although some historians are not persuaded that the Continental Army’s general was observed praying in snowy fields outside Fort Necessity, Rev. Nathaniel Randolph Snowden, writing shortly after the Revolutionary War, affirmed that he personally interviewed Isaac Potts of Valley Forge about his knowledge of General Washington’s religious faith during the winter encampment there.

Rev. Snowden, who also met with Washington in person, quotes Potts: “I never believed that America [could] proceed against Great Britain whose fleets and armies covered the land and ocean, but something very extraordinary converted me to the Good Faith! … Do you see that woods, and that plain. … There laid the army of Washington. It was a most distressing time of ye war, and all were for giving up the Ship but that great and good man. In that woods pointing to a close in view, I heard a plaintive sound as, of a man at prayer. I tied my horse to a sapling and went quietly into the woods and to my astonishment I saw the great George Washington on his knees alone, with his sword on one side and his cocked hat on the other. He was at Prayer to the God of the Armies, beseeching to interpose with his Divine aid, as it was ye Crisis, and the cause of the country, of humanity and of the world. Such a prayer I never heard from the lips of man. I left him alone praying. I went home and told my wife. I saw a sight and heard today what I never saw or heard before, and just related to her what I had seen and heard and observed. We never thought a man [could] be a soldier and a Christian, but if there is one in the world, it is Washington. She also was astonished. We thought it was the cause of God, and America could prevail.”

Washington had known glory and difficulty during late Decembers, leading the Continental Army in the Christmas Campaign successes of 1776 at Trenton and Princeton, then a year later taking his troops in retreat toward Valley Forge while leaving bloody footprints in the snow.

With our nation at war again this Christmas, we pray for victory, we pray for our Patriot Warriors, and we pray for their families. We pray especially for the families of our fallen Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen – for those who gave their lives so that we might once again celebrate Christmas as a free people.

May God’s peace and blessings be upon you and all those you hold dear.

Merry Christmas!

Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus, Fidelis et Gratus!

Mark Alexander Publisher, The Patriot

Join us in prayer for our nation’s Military Patriots — Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen — standing in harm’s way, and for Veterans, First Responders and their families. We also ask prayer for your Patriot team, that our mission would seed and encourage the Spirit of Liberty in the hearts and minds of our countrymen.

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