(Originally Published by The Times Examiner, December 24, 2003)

The Spirit of Christmas Past
The Spirit of Christmas Past

Old Ebenezer Scrooge would have loved the ACLU (‘Anti-Christian Liberties Union’) in his really bad days when he was the “Grinch” who hated Christmas.  At this time of year, especially, the ACLU is burning the midnight oil in its unceasing struggle to protect us from reminders of just Who is “the reason for the season”.  Columnist Cal Thomas once quipped, The ACLU and other groups are performing their annual ritual of keeping the public square (including the ‘public’ schools) clean of any mention of Jesus Christ, unless that mention is intended as a curse word.  In such a case, the ACLU will leap to the defense.”

It was not always so.  There was a time in America, a time that has almost faded away, when Christmas meant something special to Christians and non-Christians alike, and that special something was out in the open for all to appreciate.  In those halcyon days of fading memories (mine and those from my generation), both real Christians and the rest of the population respected the celebration of the birth of the Savior, the Prince of Peace.  Merchants didn’t put out Christmas decorations until a few weeks before Christmas.  Even non-Christians tried to live by the teachings of Jesus most of the time (He was a great “spiritual teacher”, you  know), and wonder of wonders—society did not implode over nativity scenes on the grounds of the local courthouse or fire station, or because of prayers recited in school (even, of course, the prayer that “Christmas”—not “winter holidays”—would soon be here).  Non-Christians didn’t run around our streets seeking Christians to molest, ridicule, harass, and beat up. Even worse, in those primitive days when plaques of the 10 Commandments were in many schoolrooms, the students actually read them.  Judges in those days seemed to encourage this in the hope that those students would obey the 10 Commandments and make our society a better place.  Where was the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals when we needed it?

There was a time in pre-colonial America when it was forbidden to celebrate Christmas at all.  The Pilgrims did not, for they felt that celebrating it had become a non-spiritual time of merriment and drunkenness in England and Holland.  Since it was not a Scriptural requirement, and since no one knew just when Jesus was really born, why celebrate at all?  So they, and many other early colonists of the 1600’s and 1700’s, didn’t.  In fact, they passed laws against such celebrations.  I hope that the ACLU doesn’t decide to look into trying to get that old legislation resurrected, but anything is possible with that scurvy bunch of anti-Christians, anti-Conservatives, and anti-Americans.

My earliest memory of Christmas was the Christmas of 1940 (I think—although it might have been the Christmas Eve of 1941).  Only my father’s mother, my grandmother who lived with us, was a Christian.  I remember that a few days before that long-ago Christmas Eve some members of her church came to our front door on a snowy, cold night and sang a few carols for her, and all of us.  I remember Christmas songs (not heard in those days until a week or two before Christmas) sung or played on “The Grand Old Opry” station that my father listened to occasionally.  On that Christmas Eve, my grandmother and my mom whisked me up to bed really early because “Santa” would soon be at our house.  Sure enough, as I struggled valiantly to stay awake, I heard the “sleigh bells” of Santa’s sled and reindeer.  They must be landing on the roof.  We had no fireplace or chimney, but a 4-or 5-year-old doesn’t believe in rocking the boat by asking stupid questions about how Santa would get into our house.  Well, the next morning, our Christmas tree would have lots of presents under it, even in those depression era days when my father hadn’t worked for years at a real job.  Yes, “Santa” was an important part of our Christmases, the only part for many years, since my father never had any religious beliefs—he didn’t even believe in atheism—and didn’t encourage any religious discussion between me and my grandmother (although she did try from time to time).

If you have ever watched that classic Christmas film on TV, The Christmas Story, you’ll know exactly how it was when I was a kid growing up in the late 1930’s and 1940’s.  That wonderful movie was

even filmed partly in Cleveland, Ohio, my hometown.  I got my first “Red Ryder” BB gun when I was around nine or ten, and yes—my mom worried that “I would shoot my eye out”.  But I didn’t.  (A few windows, yes, but eyes, no.)  Like “Ralphie” in the movie, I stood in front of the big windows of Higbees Department store on the public square in downtown Cleveland most Christmas times during the 1940’s, drooling over toys that I would never have (although I had a pretty extensive American Flyer electric train layout in our basement).

Most of us have fond memories of Christmases past.   It is pleasant to think on the “old days” (whenever they were) when life was more family centered and much less hectic.  People in my parents’ day had lived through the ‘not-so-great’ Depression and they survived World War 11, so they knew something of hardships and uncertainties and government controls over their lives.  But many people in those ‘good old days’ had something that is in short supply today—FAITH in the Rock of Christ, the expectation that the free enterprise system would allow them to provide a better future for their kids than they had experienced, and the certainty that things would always continue the way they had, or would even get better. 

Well, things sure have changed since I was a kid, and probably since you were a kid, also.  But one thing never has changed, nor ever will—our Savior’s love for us as promised in His Word, which also never changes.  You’ll recall that in his famous book, A Christmas Carol (1843), Charles Dickens even had old Scrooge change at the end.  It would have been more to the point if Dickens had written that Scrooge had become a Christian, but that would probably have offended some tender sensibilities of the “perpetually offended” moonbats even in pre-ACLU  Victorian times.  As it is, we only have a “hope”—we can only conjecture in our thoughts--- that Scrooge became a Christian, since it was said that he knew how to “keep Christmas well”.  May it be said of us, also, that in our time on earth we knew how to keep Christmas truly well by honoring our LORD with gifts of our time and money, and not just enriching our earthly masters (the credit card companies).  Tiny Tim said it well:  “God bless us, every one.”  Indeed.  Merry Christmas!



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