My gifts to you

My gifts to you

I’m a little under the weather, and my voice sounds like it. But one more episode for 2014.

I celebrate Christmas, and it’s interesting to see how so much of the world also celebrates it, while giving the religion from which it comes such a hard time the rest of the year. But getting beyond all that, I have some specific wishes for you this Christmas, no matter the holiday you do (or don’t) celebrate.

Thanks for listening in 2014, and may 2015 be a good year to consider this!

Mentioned links:

This Guy Cited His Christian Faith in Refusing to Make T-Shirts Advertising a Gay Pride Parade — and Now His Company Is Being Punished

City subpoenas pastors’ sermons in equal rights ordinance case

Houston mayor removes church sermons from subpoena request after outcry

Atlanta’s Fire Chief Suspended For Publicly Professing Christian Beliefs

Gay couple files complaint to challenge Methodist marriage ban

Govt tells Christian ministers: Perform same-sex weddings or face jail, fines

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Show transcript

And so another Christmastime is here, and to you I say, Merry Christmas. What you say to me is up to you. If you say Happy Holidays, I’ll return the greeting. If you say Happy Hanukkah, I’ll wish you one, too. If you say Joyous Kwanzaa, or whatever the typical adjective is for Kwanzaa, I’ll thank you and hope that you have one, too. What I won’t be is offended, even if you wish me a jubilant Winter Solstice, although, perhaps, I’ll chuckle to myself. I mean really, from my perspective, you’d rather celebrate that the Earth is at a particular point in space relative to the sun than the savior of the world coming here. Yeah, you may not believe it’s true, but, again from my perspective, the difference is stark.

The side that claims to be tolerant doesn’t have quite the same view of things. There are quite a few links in the show notes of some examples. In one, a Christian-based T-shirt is being told by a human rights board in Kentucky that they must print shirts for a gay pride parade. The owner hires and serves gays, but that’s not good enough. He must be forced to do this. Guess he’s the only T-shirt store around.

Then there’s the Houston mayor who wanted everything ever written or said by pastors who were against an ordinance that would allow anyone claiming to be transgendered to use the restroom of their choice. The separation of church and state narrowed a bit then. Well, until the next time a pastor took a stand on a political topic. Only then will it widen again. For some, that separation has a one-way door.

You may not have heard this one, because it’s more of a local story, but Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran was suspended for one month without pay, for writing a book. In this book, he expresses his evangelical Christian beliefs on homosexuality. And so for daring to express his views, the First Amendment takes a holiday, and he’s docked a month’s pay.

So we start with Christians who own a business, and are being made to print speech with which they disagree. Then we move to a mayor who thinks that the contents of sermons are valid targets of discovery when it comes to people who disagree with her. Then a public official is removed from his job and his income for a month for saying what Christians for a couple thousand years have been saying. If you’ve ever heard folks agree with these by saying such things as, “but we’d never erode religious freedom by forcing ministers to do things against their religion”, or give some other line they would never cross (that is, if they ever do define a line), then consider these stories that show that the lines just keep getting pushed back further and further.

Just ask the Idaho couple, who are both ordained ministers, that have been told by the government that they must perform same-sex weddings or face a thousand-dollar-a-day fine and 180 days of jail time. Just ask the United Methodist Church that a gay couple has filed a complaint with. Granted, this is not a legal maneuver, but it is a step that the couple hopes will change the denomination away from, again, two millennia of Christian orthodoxy.

One might ask that if Christians are so tolerant, then why do they get all upset over renaming Christmas Break to Winter Break, or when Christmas trees are renamed Holiday trees. And it’s true; a lot of Christians do see a waning of the influence of their faith in the culture, but these renamings are minor compared to having their savings and livelihood taken away for living up to the standards of their own faith and not wishing to be told that they must not simply tolerate, but affirm things that are against. You’ll perhaps excuse us if we ask for a little thing while the big freedom-of-religion issues too often get glossed over. The tolerance that most certainly exists goes cheerfully ignored by the PC Police; that Kentucky T-shirt company or Hobby Lobby or The Salvation Army can and do hire and serve the gay community, and hardly a word is said in their defense. But dare speak, or publish, a word in defense of their faith, and the full weight of the government comes crashing down, and those who point a finger and yell, “Intolerance!”, are shown for the selective attention they have.

So where does that leave us, here at the time when much of the world, Christian or not, celebrates Christmas, in spite of how those of that faith are treated the rest of the year? Where can we go from here? For my part, I’m just going to wish you, whenever, wherever and whoever you are, a Merry Christmas.

And when I wish you a Merry Christmas, I’m wishing you love, where love can be freely given even if we disagree. I’m wishing you the joy of a season that I enjoy because of what it means to me. I’m wishing you peace that passes all understanding. I’m wishing you patience, with me and with others. I’m wishing you kindness and goodness, from me and from whoever you come in contact with. I’m wishing you faithfulness from those you trust and for those you love. I’m wishing you gentleness in all of our dealings with others, young and old, like us and unlike us, because we have all been created in God’s image.

The apostle Paul wrote up this list; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and faithfulness. And if we do all that, we can’t help but have the final item on the list; self-control. That’s a gift all of us need to give ourselves, and I include myself at the top of the list. It’s one of those gifts that we can only give to ourselves.

Merry Christmas.

Filed under: Religion