Christmas and Believing

Christmas is often linked with the verb “believe”.  What we believe, or whom we believe, generally comes from stories. 

Santa was alive and well in the post World War II era of my childhood but my post World War I parents did not push Santa stories on me.  Therefore I was not surprised when Santa appeared at our one-room elementary school with a voice that sounded like our neighbor, Bill.

We never get too old to extract beliefs from stories.  I have not yet served on a jury where I must listen to elements of a story and come to a belief of innocence or guilt. But, I have done that vicariously in courtroom dramas, and probably you have done that also.

In this short column I cannot make you a believer in the Jesus Christmas story, but I can help you believe a different story that introduces the whole story of humanity and God.  The story is from the first book of the Bible, Genesis.  People disagree on some points in those early chapters, but I have studied enough physics and theology to conclude that those first chapters are Truth stories, not science stories.

In the Genesis 3 story, the characters are God, Adam and Eve, and a talking snake.  The snake convinces the couple that eating the fruit that God declared to be bad is really good.  The snake said,  “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Deciding what is good and what evil is God’s prerogative.  But we humans like to dabble with the idea that “I can decide what is good and what is evil.” 

I have visited at least one area of this earth that is a monument to the act of believing the snake in the garden.  It is the beaches of Normandy and the American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy, France.   In the spring of 2014, the 70th  anniversary year of D-Day, I had the privilege of walking on those beaches and seeing the vast expanses of monuments.  Those are monuments for those who suffered and died because enough people decided that “We can decide who and what is good - and who and what is evil.”  

The late Andy Rooney, of “60 Minutes” fame, was a reporter for the “Stars and Strips” newspaper when he landed on those beaches four days after D-day.  Coming back to those beaches in his later years brought him to tears, as did I in that April day in 2014.  

Andy Rooney said this on a “60 Minutes” segment that was broadcast on the day before Memorial Day in 2005.   “I wish we could dedicate Memorial Day not to the memory of those who have died at war, but to the idea of saving the lives of the young people who are going to die in the future if we don’t find some way – some new religion, maybe – that takes war out of our lives.”

I find his phrase “some new religion” interesting because, only recently, I have discovered that Mr. Rooney claimed to be an atheist.  Yet he did not flaunt that perspective, nor do I know what precipitated that view. 

Maybe he saw Jesus as “just another religion”.  But religions are generally described by what people do or don’t do.   This is what God says about many of us through the apostle Paul:  “You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience… all of us doing what we felt like doing,…” 

The life story of that baby born in Bethlehem helps me believe this:  “It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us!” (Quotes are from THE MESSAGE paraphrase of Ephesians 2:1-6)

From that I can enthusiastically and unashamedly say to you all, “Merry Christmas!”

Karen and me, Grandsons (Wylie III and Wyatt - standing, their parents, Samantha and Wylie II) - April 24, 2014