Saturday, December 29, 2007

Joseph: a father's life

For the prominent part that Joseph must surely have played in the birth and young life of Jesus, there is not much written in scripture about him. Matthew says he is of the "house of David", but this point would seem irrelevant since Joseph is not the biological father. Yet like a responsible father, Joseph serves as provider and protector of his family.

When given an opportunity and before he is fully aware of what is happening to Mary, Joseph still chooses to treat her with respect and honor. When told of the Child's origin, he seems not to hesitate still to take responsibility for the care and the well-being of Mary and, ultimately, Jesus. For Joseph, then, the duties and responsibilities of service and honor mean something to him. He is a faithful servant of YHWH as a man, as a husband, and as a father. In spite of all this, the biblical writers chose not to give us very much information about such a man of honor and integrity, a "righteous man" whose service in his role could reveal to us a lot as to what it means to be not only a MAN of God, but also what it takes to be a REAL man.

It has been shown in certain polls that men in general are put off by the word "love" in church. The word itself has an almost feminine - or at least, less than masculine - quality to it because men don't typically think in such terms. Being referred to as a "child" or "servant" of God also seems to be another of those biblical phrases that don't seem to reverberate well with men. Being a “child” or a "servant" implies dependence and helplessness, not exactly the qualities we revere in men. I can't say that such phrases make me uncomfortable, but I also find myself almost hesitant about using them too freely especially when there are a lot of men present. Maybe it is because of my knowledge of such polls which come close to suggesting that men - in large numbers - typically stay away from church because church is not generally considered "a guy thing". I think, however, that Joseph would suggest otherwise.

Joseph was a carpenter. He worked with his hands long before power tools were even thought of! Consequently his would be the hands of a working man, calloused hands rough to the touch and with probably more splinters and cuts than we could imagine. Being a skilled tradesman, it would also be easy to imagine a muscled man who is accustomed to lifting, pushing, and pulling a lot of weight alone. This is NOT by any account a "girly" man!

This was also a man unencumbered by foolish pride, one of the so-called "seven deadly sins" that is, in my humble opinion, at the root of all sin. Think about the culture of the day; they are not married though they are betrothed (engaged), Mary is pregnant, and Joseph is not the father. Regardless of what Joseph thinks or believes about angels and dreams, he knows for a fact that this was not his child. How many men do you know would endure and persevere through such a stigma? A weaker man would have, could have, walked away choosing not to deal with what was surely a difficult and awkward situation with unforeseen obstacles and challenges, and society would have thought no less of him.

In the truest biblical sense, Joseph was the very personification of what constitutes love. Regardless of societal or cultural expectations and demands, Joseph put himself completely aside to care for Mary and, subsequently, the Child. Regardless of what he wanted for himself and his own life, Joseph put himself and his own personal needs or desires completely aside to care for Mary and her Child. In reading what little there is about Joseph, this was a man's man: a hard and hardy worker who did not seem too concerned with worldly expectations or preconceived notions of what "rights" a man in that culture could reasonably expect. An independent man capable of thinking for himself, Joseph chose not to involve a council of elders regarding Mary's then-questionable pregnancy. This, dear friends, is a man among men.

Aside from this, one must also consider the incredible faith that drove Joseph. In DREAMS he received his instructions! It would be one thing to be directly confronted while wide awake, as Mary was, by an angel who would make such pronouncements. It is another thing entirely to receive such information in one's sleep and be so compelled to act upon these dreams not for the sake of self or even for the sake of others, but for the sake of YHWH's own glory! Joseph is being asked to protect a Child who is not his own. Did he fully understand the implications? It would be impossible for us to speculate and draw any useful conclusions. Suffice it to say, he understood enough - and had faith enough - to do as he had been directed.

It must have also been a little overwhelming for a working man to be told, apparently in no uncertain terms, that the safety and care of the CHRIST Child and His mother would be entrusted to him. Imagine being asked to safeguard the Savior Of The World with no more experience than that of a carpenter. Yet without hesitation Joseph responded as a "righteous" man would. As a result, mother and Child are safe and well.

Joseph’s very brief but rather significant story has made me consider, or reconsider, many facets of my own life, and I should think that others would care enough to think more deeply and more intentionally about the role that Joseph played. We could speculate and make up “what if” stories about what might have been if Joseph had declined the role or if Joseph had not been a man of faith, but the truth is that the Lord would not have chosen someone like that and obviously didn’t. Joseph was chosen, and was chosen for a reason. To say merely that he was “of the house of David” would not be adequate consideration because he was surely not the only living descendent of David. To say that Joseph was chosen because he was a “righteous” man might also come up a little short because it is highly unlikely that he was the ONLY righteous descendent of David.

Could it be that the selection of Joseph was incidental to the selection of Mary only because they were betrothed? I suppose this is possible but while such a theory may speak volumes about Mary, it might not do enough justice to why the Lord chose Joseph. It would almost be like saying that I can only be considered a preacher as long as I serve one particular church. The church would still be a church with me or without me, but it would not remove from me my charge as a preacher. That is to say, if I am truly called to preach, then that calling is not incidental to anything; it is an intentional act of God.

We can come up with a long list of biblical characters whose lives come with a warning and disclaimer: DON’T DO THIS! Conversely there are tons of biblical characters whose lives not only served a divine purpose then but also stand now as shining examples of how true believers should conduct themselves. Yes, Joseph should serve man as a patron saint of “manly men” but regardless of gender, Joseph also stands as the patron saint of DO this, BE this, STRIVE for this.

I just don’t think Joseph was a man’s man who was afraid or squeamish about being considered a faithful “servant” or “child” of God the Holy Father. The sign he carried to make such things known was displayed by the life he freely chose to live, a live lived NOT in accordance with worldly or cultural expectations but according to the measure of his faith and willingness to serve.

I wonder if he ever knew that he served all of humanity by the quiet strength of his faith?

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Merry Christmas 2007

Christmas is a lot like Good Friday and Easter in that there is very little a preacher can say that will enhance what Scripture already teaches about these Holy Days. There are great mysteries involved with each that transcend our human capacity to comprehend and while we can and must offer up praise for the birth of Messiah, can we really appreciate it for what it is? For what it means to us? For what it means to the whole world?

I've shared before the conflicts I have with our American Christmas traditions so that there must surely be some who would refer to me as "Rev. Grinch" who tries to steal the joy of Christmas! In retrospect, I think I've been a little too hard on we Christians who spend too much time and money in stores worrying about and preparing for this coming Celebration, and I don't think I've been entirely fair - especially when I look at the wonderful thing the precious children of my little congregation have done in partnering with Heifer International and leading us with their enthusiasm and purity of heart.

I think we all agree that Christmas has become too commercialized, and I think we agree that many good people lose sight of what it all means because the true value of the Holy Day is lost somewhere in one of the many financial transactions which take place. I have opined that there are too many who claim the name "Christian" who just do not get the whole Christ-centered Holy Day, including Christians who write "hate mail" to newspapers virtually cursing and spewing condemnation toward those who would dare to use a holiday greeting other than "Merry Christmas".

In spite of my disdain for the commercialization of the Holy Day and its Advent season, however, it still must be important for me - and for others who think like I do - to get over the distaste, stop focusing on what's wrong, and choose to focus instead on what's right. It is the same argument I've made for so many other issues that haunt Christianity in the public realm - that we not be so focused on the negative that we fail to celebrate all that is right; by making our case and our cause for Christ to be that of LIFE and LIBERTY, REDEMPTION and HOPE.

Ours is the case and the cause that believes not only that there is a God but that He is also the God who cares enough to do this magnificent, mysterious, and marvelous thing to send into the world a Savior as a very personal and interactive God. This is the God who freely chose to walk among us, to teach us, to heal us, to comfort us and, yes, to confront and correct us.

This is the God who could just as easily have come to us in a way more reminiscent of the images of The Revelation, with blaring horns and sword-bearing angels charging and the whole Armageddon battle thing – but chose instead to come to us as a baby; quietly and with little fanfare, not to frighten us but to offer to us the Peace we so desperately need.

And perhaps in the still of the night the earth stood still and the world silent if but for a moment to celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace by reveling in that moment of pure, unadulterated peace; peace unencumbered by the works of man.

Let this be for us a season when wrongs are made right, and negatives are pushed aside in favor of positives. Let this be for us the season when hard hearts such as my own will finally come to terms with the Spirit of the Christ Mass, having been led by the faith and purity of our children to the hope and the promise of the Christ Child.

Merry Christmas, dear friends.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Seeing Is Believing

Isaiah 35:1-10
James 5:7-10
Matthew 11:2-11

When John the Baptist saw Jesus approaching to be baptized, he proclaimed for all to hear: "Behold the Lamb of God!" (John 1:29), John seemed to have reason to believe he was being approached by Messiah and that he had no doubt about who Jesus is, especially when John questions why Jesus would be asking to be baptized "when it is I who should be baptized by You" (Matthew 3:14). Also recall that Jesus and John were contemporaries, growing up in the same area maybe even as playmates. Remember, too, Gabriel's words to Zacharias that John would be filled with the Holy Spirit even before birth (Luke 1:15). As-yet-unborn baby John also "leapt with joy" upon Mary's greeting to Elizabeth (Luke 1:44).

So Jesus and John are probably not strangers to one another, but how or even when John came by the knowledge to make such a bold proclamation can only be attributed to the Holy Spirit. When Peter proclaims Jesus to be "the Christ, the Son of the Living God" (Matthew 16:16-17), Jesus tells him that he could not have come by this knowledge except through the Lord. By these proclamations, then, it is apparent that there are no physical attributes by which one can identify Messiah. There has to be more.

John is now in prison (Matthew 11:2) after having offended Herod for the last time. From prison John instructs his own disciples to go to Jesus and confirm that Jesus is indeed "the One who is to come" or if they must continue to patiently wait. Knowing that John's time on this earth was about to come to an end and having my own confidence in John’s faith, I once believed that perhaps John sent his disciples to Jesus to confirm for themselves the reality of Jesus the Messiah so that they would not be left "stranded" after John's death. I once believed that John's whole purpose as a herald, as the "voice crying in the wilderness", would be finally and completely fulfilled by his disciples learning for themselves by encountering Christ for themselves and meeting Him face to face, leaving no doubts. Now I am not so sure that this was John's intent.

Up to this point John has apparently been free to wander and preach wherever he chose to. It seems clear that Herod gave John a lot of latitude out of fear even after being directly confronted by John because of his "unlawful" marriage, so it is reasonable that John could have felt so unencumbered with his preaching among the people. There is no evidence to suggest that John ever encountered any serious challenge or opposition, and he was popular among the people as a prophet. Suddenly John finds himself in prison though he may not have been entirely aware of the circumstances that led to his arrest. Surely he must have known, though, that sooner or later Herod would finally reach the end of his rope but because of the strength of his conviction, John knew he had to keep on preaching.

So because John had relative free reign in preaching whenever and wherever he would choose and because he could seemingly challenge Herod directly and walk away untouched, it might be more reasonable to wonder if it was John himself - and not his disciples - who needed some kind of confirmation that Jesus was indeed "the One who is to come" now that he's found himself in prison, possibly knowing he would never be released, maybe suspecting he may be facing execution. John's entire recorded ministry had been focused on this very thing, announcing the coming of the Kingdom, calling the faithful to be prepared, "to make straight the path". And because he had remained relatively untouched throughout his ministry up till now, it would be easier for us to understand that now, John needed to know.

I think maybe it is easier for us to appreciate such a scenario. We read Bible stories about such big players as John the Baptist, and he becomes larger than life to us as one who can do no wrong. Because of that perception, it is difficult to think that he was as human as the rest of us and could actually come face-to-face with fear and be overcome by certain worldly realities. THAT is something I think we can all relate to, especially when we surely must know that succumbing to such fear becomes its own prison in which we feel trapped and overwhelmed, unsure of what tomorrow may bring, not even being sure if we will ever again see the light of day.

When we find ourselves so enslaved, we are desperate for solutions, anxious for any ray of hope because we find ourselves virtually immobilized. It is very hard to think rationally when we are surrounded and overtaken by fear. Everything is blown out of proportion, and nothing seems to make any sense. To think for one moment that we might be in such a state for the unforeseeable future would be hard to endure, nearly impossible. Sometimes I wonder about prisoners who are sentenced to life behind bars. Though they may well deserve such a sentence, it might almost seem merciful to execute them, sort of letting them off the hook. And this even in our modern prisons with TV and other amenities to make them as comfortable as possible!

Beyond that, however, it may well be that John found himself in a position we all surely suffer from time to time, being enslaved within a prison of doubt, not being entirely sure that our lives have been well spent or that we were in some small way able to accomplish something meaningful. It must surely be at least this challenging for those in other countries who face the threat of torture and death almost constantly because they dare to call themselves Christians. Could the fear and anxiety possibly be worth all the misery? One might wonder, maybe even such a heavy hitter as John the Baptist.

So when John bothers to ask, he is not brushed off with a simple "yes, I am He" and he is not threatened with hell-fire and brimstone if his faith falters. Instead, he is advised to look around and see what is going on. There are stories of miracles being performed, sick people suddenly well, lame people suddenly made whole. It is a most remarkable time in human history, and it is unfolding right in front of anyone who wants to see, anyone who cares to look, everyone who bothers to ask!

Freedom from whatever prison enslaves us now is but an observation and prayer away. "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.” Revelation 3:20-21

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Christians and Self-Defense

In light of the recent attacks in Colorado in which innocent persons were viciously gunned down at a Christian gathering, discussions have begun about the morality or righteousness of armed Christians who carry loaded weapons for personal protection "just in case". Far be it from me to judge, but I am left wondering exactly how much suffering we are willing to endure for the cause of Christ. Though I don't carry a weapon, I am as guilty as many others who seek the comforts this world can offer and then reason to myself that the Holy Father has provided for my comfort and well-being. It is, of course, always good and right to give thanks to the Lord for every good thing that comes into our lives, but I sometimes wonder if we can tell the difference between what is good for our mortal bodies but not necessarily so good for our immortal souls.

I met a fellow pastor at our licensing school several years ago who commented that he had a concealed carry permit and was armed most of the time. Though I let it go, I was struck by a disciple's apparent need to trust only in himself and the state in which he was licensed to carry a loaded weapon for his well-being. The perspective changes, of course, when he mentions that he is primarily armed for his family's protection, but does the reality?

While most of us possess an intense desire to protect those we love from harm, I wonder if carrying a loaded weapon is the proper or practical course of action especially if confronted by a lone gunman, or two, bent on taking possessions from us (mugging). What would we have in our possession the value of which could be fairly compared to the inherent value of a human life, even a criminal’s? And lest we forget, we are in this particular scenario confronted by predators who are likely far more experienced in such confrontations than we would ever expect to be. Would pulling a weapon in hopes of being able to out-draw our opponent not put those whom we love, as well as other innocent bystanders, at far greater risk by invoking a gun fight? I'm not sure I know what the correct response might be, but I am relatively certain that those who confront with weapons do not necessarily mean to harm more than to overwhelm and frighten.

Years ago I had a knife put to my throat. I froze. The guy probably had no intentions of actually cutting or killing me, but he did get what he was likely after: fear. I cannot recall exactly what was going through my mind at the time, but I'm pretty sure I didn't want to die and I'm equally sure I agreed to whatever terms were presented to me at the time. I also cannot say that my response was measured or planned, but I am alive today because I did not take an already bad situation and attempt to make it worse. Of course I had regrets later. Of course I wished I had had the presence of mind to react a little more quickly but in any ensuing battle, who is to say that I still would not have been cut or killed? Or worse, who is to say that I would not have been the one to cut or kill had I gotten the upper hand? Would either outcome have been worth the struggle?

”Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). Under such a situation, how would God have been glorified had I fought back? How would God have been glorified had I gotten the upper hand and actually ended that guy's life? Our society might suggest that I had every right – if not a manly obligation - to defend myself, but what will come first? In this particular case, my assailant had complete control - for that moment - over my mortal body. Not a happy memory, of course, but it is true enough. My immortal soul, on the other hand, was still owned by Another whose terms cannot be negotiated. Absent the assailant, what changes? My mortal body is indeed my own, but I have extremely limited control over the acts of another. I can take preventive measures to protect myself but if someone is determined to kill me AND is willing to go to jail or die in the process, there is nothing, and I mean NOTHING, I can do to stop it. The ownership of my soul, however, never changed hands.

Peter sought to protect his Friend, and his Friend rebuked him by declaring that we "who {choose} to live by the sword will be destroyed by the sword" (Matthew 26:52). Noah received a similar admonishment about the penalty for spilling the blood of another man and offers no conditions (Genesis 9:6). Our own system of justice rejects a "vigilante justice" mentality which would bring nothing but chaos and anarchy. Ours would be such a "dog-eat-dog" society in which terms of survival would be dictated by the “fittest”, leaving the weakest among us vulnerable to the terms of another. It is for the sake of order (1 Peter 2:13-14) that our society demands law enforcement by professionals who are trained extensively and in more areas than what currently presents itself.

Essentially it is that there is only so much we can do to combat evil ... by worldly means. There are, however, other measures we can take such as refusing to respond in kind, “for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head” (Romans 12:20). Repaying evil for evil? What makes our action of self-defense, which is an EQUAL though opposite reaction, righteous or morally correct? How is it that a man with evil intent is about to commit an evil act by ending my life or even the life of one I love, but my act of ending his life in self-defense is somehow not equally evil, even if I could argue that my intent was noble? I cannot control his actions, but I can control my own because I possess the capacity of will to determine my next course of action. By the same token, I will also be held accountable for my own chosen course of action if not in this life, most certainly in the life to come.

I wish it were as simple as I seem to present it. Having such faith in the presence of a direct threat, especially a grave threat against our loved ones, is a tall order for nearly everyone. Peter failed when he was directly challenged, and he physically walked with the Lord and was witness to much we seem to cast doubts upon by our own perverted sense of "progressive" theology. Reasonable minds might suggest that Peter should have suffered absolutely no lingering doubts, yet he obviously did. For some reason when he needed his faith most, he chose to flee. How could this have been, especially when it was he who was prepared to protect Jesus previously (John 18:10)?

”Whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25). So when we arm ourselves, we are making a statement to the effect that we are in fact willing (and ready!) to shed another's blood in order to "save [our] own life". What does this sort of mind set say about our profession of faith as disciples, or students, of Jesus? We would choose to "trust" Jesus for our eternal salvation, but we won't trust Him to help us across the street? Jesus chose to forego the protection He could have "called down" (Matthew 26:53) thus preserving His own mortal life, but He declined for something greater. Can it be said that such a choice was foreordained, or would it be closer to the truth to suggest that Jesus made a free will choice for the sake of something much greater, an ideal that is completely apart from the expectations of this world?

There are no easy answers for those who live under a cloud of doubt. In a world seemingly gone mad, it is easy for non-believers to wonder aloud where our God is in the midst of such chaos and suffering; it is even easier to live in fear as is evidenced by so many who choose to arm themselves. Christians must be constantly reminded, however, that this is not our Father’s world (Ephesians 2:2) and our battle is not against flesh and bone (2 Corinthians 10:3), “for the weapons of our warfare are not of this world but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.” (2 Corinthians 10:4-6)

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Religion's Place in Politics

As we draw closer to the nation's first political caucus in Iowa, the campaign rhetoric heats up, names are called, accusations are made, fingers are pointed, and one can almost hear an audible "gotcha" each time a campaign launches a successful "zinger" against an opponent. Poll numbers fluctuate with each accusation and corresponding answer which serves to do nothing more than to add fuel to an already intense fire. Oddly, however, while Americans express a particular disdain for such political campaign antics, a candidate's numbers can surge after an especially brutal attack, having somehow proved that they have the gumption to stand up and answer to such attacks. Poll numbers and expressions of disdain do not always seem to correspond especially when we say we hate such behavior while simultaneously rewarding it by continually electing and re-electing these same persons over and again.

More strange, perhaps, is that most of the candidates from both parties have openly spoken of their faith and proclaimed allegiance to religion, predominately Christianity, which demands a moral standard, the commonality of a standard which prohibits "bearing false witness". Now consider Mr. Romney's latest attack against former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee in which Mr. Romney stated that Gov. Huckabee attempted to establish a "special" college scholarship fund for illegal aliens. Let it be noted that as an Arkansas citizen, I was keenly aware of Gov. Huckabee's proposal. Mr. Romney's characterization of this proposal is either seriously misinformed, ignorant, or a downright lie. Considering that Mr. Romney is probably of above average intelligence and will be called upon often to render decisions based on accurate information if elected, one might think that Mr. Romney would ask more questions about a specific proposal of a political opponent before lashing out in such a careless way especially when he asked the nation to entrust to him the “most powerful office” on earth.

I suspect that Mr. Romney is simply "playing the game" because Mr. Huckabee has directly disputed this accusation, and Mr. Romney has not, to my knowledge, retracted his "accusation". A little fact-checking would provide Mr. Romney with sufficient "egg in the face" but would also require that Mr. Romney take a moral stance and admit that he was dead wrong and out of line. According to his professed Mormon faith, this would be required of him.

In spite of all this, or perhaps because of it, Mr. Romney has decided that it is in his best interest to give a speech on Thursday (12/6/07) to enlighten the nation about his Mormon faith. Considering the exchange with and about Mr. Huckabee on only one particular issue, how will he religiously or faithfully or morally explain his attack especially when he should have reasonably known that his information about Mr. Huckabee was not correct? Will it be that we will discover that Mormonism requires that its adherents deliberately mislead others? I think not, but this dilemma goes a long way toward answering a question that asks honestly: what does a politician's religious faith have to do with anything especially when they clearly do not live according to a particularly religious standard? Or has religion in America become so bastardized to the point of being completely unrecognizable? If it is true, as Mr. Paul Greenberg of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette points out, that the central metaphor of all religious belief is “revealing light”, we are left to wonder exactly what sort of religion is being revealed in political races especially when a candidate’s particular religion becomes an issue.

For the record, I am the last man on the face of this planet who has any right to stand in judgment of anyone. What I find most distressing about the references to religion is that it appears that candidates from both parties seem to be pandering to a particular crowd while they continue to tear one another apart, make misleading accusations, and accuse one another of being less than sincere. If this is how their faith informs their politicking, I shudder at how their faith may inform their job performance especially when it comes to public policy.

As a Christian, I do not feel threatened by Mr. Romney’s Mormon religion and I’m in no position to question his spiritual faith, but I have to say that I question his sense of propriety in light of his gross mischaracterization of Mr. Huckabee’s policy proposals especially when, as of this writing, Mr. Huckabee has taken the #1 spot in national polls and had been steadily gaining in the past week. Is Mr. Romney panicking? Is this indicative of how he will react to an international crisis before he gets his facts straight?

Better pray on this one.

Why is it ...

Why is it that "the woods" are always "the woods" except during deer season when they suddenly become "the deer woods" even though they never seem to become "the squirrel woods" during squirrel hunting season? I also notice that "the fields" are always fields but never seem to become "the dove fields" during dove hunting season. Same with rabbit fields. And if a "catfish pond" has bass in it, is it still a "catfish pond"? And if the water is not clear, how does one know whether there are any fish in the pond at all? Seems like one would need to know this. After all, if one is given directions to a fish pond but there are no fish in the pond, does the location or nature of the pond change, causing the seeker to be in the wrong place by virtue of changing nature of the pond? Does this now mean that with the new Arkansas alligator hunting season, the rivers will soon be "the gator rivers" during the season but will remain "the rivers" throughout the year? And why do they never seem to become "the fish rivers" even though one can fish year-round?

Just curious.

Yes, Virginia ....

Eight-year-old Virginia O'Hanlon wrote a letter to the editor of New York's Sun, and the quick response was printed as an unsigned editorial Sept. 21, 1897. The work of veteran newsman Francis Pharcellus Church has since become history's most reprinted newspaper editorial, appearing in part or whole in dozens of languages in books, movies, and other editorials, and on posters and stamps.

"DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
"Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
"Papa says, 'If you see it in THE SUN it's so.'
"Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?


VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except [what] they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You may tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.