By Dr. Jim Ferguson
The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus said that change is inevitable. Perhaps he came to this conclusion as an older guy standing in front of a mirror instead of considering flowing water referenced in his famous quote, “Panta rhei,” (everything flows). Don’t worry! This essay will not be a philosophical digression.
Something changed in me since last Christmas. Each year we watch Christmas movies which help foster the Christmas spirit. My favorite movie, as well as my son in-law’s, is National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. I can identify with Clark Griswold’s quest to procure the perfect Griswold family Christmas tree. I have bought, cut, trimmed and set up real Christmas trees for as long as I can remember. My family still laughs about the bodacious tree I once brought home which was so large it required the removal of six feet of tree and still it abutted our eleven foot ceiling. Though I have the 2019 Christmas spirit, I’ve lost the passion for a live tree.
Recently, I read that there is a shortage of one of the most popular types of Christmas tree, the Frazer fir. These beautiful trees are native to the Appalachian Mountains and are popular because they are shapely, have strong limbs and relatively soft needles. It takes about a decade for the tree to grow high enough to be harvested and apparently the recession in the early Obama years led to fewer trees being planted. Furthermore, there was a drought in 2012 which claimed many young trees. My daughter reports that her tree cost much more this year.
I read there is a plentiful supply of other varieties of trees, and this brings to mind another Christmas tree story. My father in-law was a wonderful man, but aesthetics were not his forte. He was also frugal and once brought home three “scrawny” cedars for the Venable family Christmas tree. His wife and daughters assumed he would group these trees together to make one “shapely” tree. However, when they returned to see the result, they were horrified to find he had grouped the trees, side by side, and nailed them to the floor of their home!
Every family has a Christmas story. Even non-Christians can celebrate the secular bon ami of the season. A good friend of mine is Jewish and loves the Christmas season. Being a Christian, I also celebrate the “reason for the season.” One of our favorite Christmas stories is the year Santa Claus (Becky and I) bought early and stored the toys in a closet. On Christmas morning Santa’s gifts looked a little sparse, especially compared to the array of gifts left to the daughter of friends spending Christmas with us. It wasn’t until Christmas night while “evaluating” Christmas with our older daughter that Becky remembered the gifts she had hidden. Fortunately, we found the gifts the next day and Santa was able to redeem himself with a later run.
As a history buff, the influence of Jesus Christ on the world is unquestionable and unparalleled. He changed everything. In antiquity, you were either of noble birth or not. Jesus changed that perspective, holding that everyone is a child of God and worthy. As a result, Jesus’ followers would take his lead and care for the sick and disabled. They built hospitals next to churches as the Christian movement expanded. Christians advocated universal education and promoted higher learning sponsoring universities. Harvard was originally a Christian center of learning. Consider what universities have now become without God. Christians also sought to spread the Gospel as missionaries and lift up the poor across the world. Sure there were mistakes and abuses because the Church is made up of imperfect people. However, the good that is done continues to change the world for the better. Godless secularism, humanism and existentialism are insufficient to change the nature of man. Humans are perfected by the Spirit from the inside out, not by man from the top down.
In his book “The Gift of the Jews,” Thomas Cahill writes that when God entered the world the western concept of linear time was established. In other words, there was a time before man became aware of God, there is our present moment and we imagine tomorrow and the future. We westerners assume everyone sees time in this manner. However, eastern and primitive cultures, such as the Mayans of Central America, envision time as circular. The Lion King movie capitalized on this concept.
We live in a universe of changing temperature, energy and entropy, defined by physics and the laws of thermodynamics (changing heat/energy). The first law holds that energy cannot be created or destroyed, but can pass from one system to another. The second law defines entropy (disorder) which increases over time. By example, clocks which run down and stop if not wound. Lastly, disorder cannot reach infinity (3rd law). (Congress may be an exception). Without getting lost in the weeds of physics, the second law mandates that time moves forward into the future and not backwards into the past.
As I pen this essay, Nancy Pelosi and a gaggle of thirteen Democrats have just returned from a climate conference in Spain. With all our problems, this is where do-nothing Democrats waste their time and our money as well as increasing CO2 footprints from jet travel? I wonder if Pelosi met with the teenage climate wonder child, Greta Thunberg, to get climate marching orders. At least Trump is working for America with the NATO boys.
According to Princeton professor Hannah Arendt, “the discoverer of the role of forgiveness in the realm of human affairs was Jesus of Nazareth.” In his book “Who Is This Man,” John Ortberg discusses the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. You may remember the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa led by Desmond Tutu after apartheid. The concept is that healing can occur when two people or both sides embrace a willingness to renounce hatred and forgive. Even if one-sided, forgiveness can still heal that soul. The quintessential example is Jesus asking God to forgive his unrepentant executioners.
As I watched the latest Congressional testimony of supercilious professors filled with hatred for Trump and deplorables like me, and read of the vicious attacks on Melania Trump’s decorations of the White House, I see hate’s spawn. Pitiable.
I refuse to let the Dems change (spoil) my Christmas spirit. So, I will pray and forgive and wait for November 2020 to give them all an extended holiday!