I've been reading the greetings written in the colorful Christmas cards that I receive each year from family and friends. And as has been my custom for many years, I read and reread the beautiful old reply "Yes, Virginia, There Is A Santa Claus" written by the editor of the New York Sun, Frances Pharcellus Church, to Virginia O'Hanlon, age 8, and published in 1897.
My grandmother gave me my copy many years ago when I was a child, and, since she was born in 1876, she had read the original letter and reply reprinted in the local paper then. But the Santa Claus written about and described to Virginia by Mr. Church back then is not the same Santa we know today. Then he represented hope, love, imagination and the spirit and joy of a child on the eve of the birth of Jesus, a mythology of caring, the sincerity of giving and the happiness of receiving.
Unfortunately today, Santa is portrayed as a marketing ploy, a sales representative, someone who delivers on Christmas Eve the current most wanted toys to children who expect no less. Even the reindeer and North Pole mythology is disappearing, and he arrives on scene sometimes months before Christmas, in helicopters or automobiles. His mythical beauty, aura and meaning to children at our Christmas holiday are somehow missing. Today we live in a world where the true spirit of Christmas is hard to find.
And today the real meaning of Christmas is even harder to find, either in our hearts, minds or activities that surround that most holy day and celebration. It is now unlawful in many cities, towns and other locations in our country to display a scene of the Nativity, depicting the birth of Jesus Christ over 2000 years ago, and the only reason there is a Christmas celebration and holiday.
I also read the newspapers and see the news on television, and read newsletters and bulletins on my computer. These are some of the headlines I read today:
The Nativity scene in Israel is modified by some Christians there to make a political point;
In Bethlehem, a Jewish security barrier separates the town of Jesus' birth from Jerusalem;
Twin terrorist bombings in Algeria are linked to the forthcoming Islamic holiday, Eid al Adha.
I also read an online newsletter section today that outlined "47 years of judicial war against American freedom of religion." Are you aware that:
In 1962, the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed school prayer? (Engel v. Vitale)
In 1971 the U.S. Supreme Court devised its most stringent standards of legal secularism? (Lemon v. Kurtzman).
In 1980 the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed posting of the Ten Commandments in school classrooms? (Stone v. Graham).
In 1992 the U.S. Supreme Court held that non-sectarian invocations and benedictions at school graduation ceremonies were unconstitutional? (Lee v. Weisman).
In the 2000 U.S. Supreme Court decision (Santa Fe School District v. Doe), the court found that brief, non-sectarian, student-led prayer before football games was unconstitutional?
These are but a few of the current onslaught of secularism over Christianity in the United States our courts have upheld.
Our celebration of Christmas is becoming harder to keep its Christian heritage each year. When we listen to carols on the radio, we hear 90% secular. Old-fashioned carols celebrating the birth of Christ are hard to find on the airwaves. Religious Christmas cards are separated from others in stores. You must visit a Christian store to purchase religious ornaments or depictions of religious scenes. Even churches' traditional Christmas plays or celebrations have become less traditional and more contemporary. Our children are not vested in school by the real meanings behind our country's most visual and meaningful holiday celebration.
What if Christmas disappears altogether? What kind of country will it be with only Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist or separatist or native or atheist celebrations?
The United States of America was founded 231 years ago as a Christian country by Christian people on Christian principles. All other religions of the world were welcomed to enjoy a religious freedom to worship here with us, and the government will support that freedom, among several others. That religious freedom does not insure, however, that other religions will have equality or preference over Christianity, or that other religion's celebrations at Christmas are guaranteed equality. It also does not insure that they may challenge other citizens to cease the Christian principles as determined by the founding fathers in the maintenance and preservation of a Christian society and country.
No one, not even the courts, has the right or the power to change the declarative definitions as laid out by the founders on the religious traditions and Christian principles on which the United States of America was established. All citizens have the right and the duty to protect our country's religious heritage, no matter their own personal religious beliefs or nonbeliefs.
Without Christmas, our country can not preserve its rightful heritage, nor protect our own Christian traditions as given to us by previous generations of Americans.
And without the birth of Jesus Christ, the son of God, on that Silent Night, On the Midnight Clear, and with the manifest joy of Angels in Heaven, we could not celebrate the gifts of love, peace, goodwill and hope He brings to us, and indeed, to all persons, and to the entire world.
Without Him, there can be no Christmas.
Jack L. Key is an author and features writer. His commentary appears in both print and electronic media. He is also a Navy veteran and a retired healthcare professional. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org