They Valued Freedom More

In The Words of Ronald Reagan:

You can call it mysticism if you want to, but I have always believed that there was some divine plan that placed this great continent between two oceans to be sought out by those who were possessed of an abiding love of freedom and a special kind of courage.

This was true of those who pioneered the great wilderness in the beginning of this country, as it is also true of those later immigrants who were willing to leave the land of their birth and come to a land where even the language was unknown to them. Call it chauvinistic, but our heritage does set us apart. Some years ago a writer, who happened to be an avid student of history, told me a story about that day in the little hall in Philadelphia where honorable men, hard-pressed by a King who was flouting the very law they were willing to obey, debated whether they should take the fateful step of declaring their independence from that king. I was told by this man that the story could be found in the writings of Jefferson. I confess, I never researched or made an effort to verify it. Perhaps it is only legend. But story, or legend, he described the atmosphere, the strain, the debate, and that as men for the first time faced the consequences of such an irretrievable act, the walls resounded with the dread word of treason and its price — the gallows and the headman’s axe. As the day wore on the issue hung in the balance, and then, according to the story, a man rose in the small gallery. He was not a young man and was obviously calling on all the energy he could muster. Citing the grievances that had brought them to this moment, he said, “Sign that parchment. They may turn every tree into a gallows, every home into a grave and yet the words of that parchment can never die. For the mechanic in his workshop, they will be words of hope, to the slave in the mines — freedom.” And he added, “If my hands were freezing in death, I would sign that parchment with my last ounce of strength. Sign, sign if the next moment the noose is around your neck, sign even if the hall is ringing with the sound of headman’s axe, for that parchment will be the textbook of freedom, the bible of the rights of man forever.” And then it is said he fell back exhausted. But 56 delegates, swept by his eloquence, signed the Declaration of Independence, a document destined to be as immortal as any work of man can be. And according to the story, when they turned to thank him for his timely oratory, he could not be found nor were there any who knew who he was or how he had come in or gone out through the locked and guarded doors.

Well, as I say, whether story or legend, the signing of the document that day in Independence Hall was miracle enough. Fifty-six men, a little band so unique — we have never seen their like since — pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor. Sixteen gave their lives, most gave their fortunes and all of them preserved their sacred honor. What manner of men were they? Certainly they were not an unwashed, revolutionary rabble, nor were they adventurers in a heroic mood. Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists, 11 were merchants and tradesmen, nine were farmers. They were men who would achieve security but valued freedom more. (Ronald Reagan, “We Will Be A City Upon A Hill”)

Christmas Tree Blessing

Holy Creator of Trees, bless with your abundant grace this our Christmas tree as a symbol of joy. May its evergreen branches be a sign of your never-fading promises. May its colorful lights and ornaments call us to decorate with love our home and our world. May the gifts that surround this tree be symbols of the gifts we have received from the Tree of Christ’s Cross. Holy Christmas tree within our home, may Joy and Peace come and nest in your branches and in our hearts. Amen. (Author Unknown)

R. L. Dabney: God And Government

R. L. Dabney

R. L. Dabney

“Government is not the creator but the creature of human society. The government has no mission from God to make the community. On the contrary, the community is determined by Providence, where it is happily determined for us by far other causes than the meddling of governments—by historical causes in the distant past, by vital ideas, propagated by great individual minds—especially by the church and its doctrines.”

R.L. Dabney, from an address to the students at Davidson College in 1866.

Redemption: “A Christmas Carol”

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One of my favorite books is A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I always enjoy watching the various film adaptations during the Christmas season even though they have been much watered-down from the original book. It has become a tradition for me to make time to watch one or more versions of A Christmas Carol just prior to Christmas. What is it about this story that attracts a Christian’s attention? Eric Rauch explains its appeal in his article “Good Will Toward Men”:

Victorian-era England was still very much aware of how Christianity was at the bottom of its culture and traditions. In fact, Dickens himself writes in such a way that most modern Americans, ignorant as they are of the Scriptures, would be hard pressed to miss the overt references to the Bible that can be found throughout the entire book.

Most film adaptations of A Christmas Carol are faithful to the overall story; yet leave out many of these biblical references and allusions. . . .

The general theme of A Christmas Carol is one of redemption, a life redeemed from an inward focus to an outward focus. The priorities of Scrooge’s life change in one night from one of greed and accumulation of material wealth, to one of benevolence and generosity. Clearly, Scrooge doesn’t “become a Christian” in the usual sense of the phrase, but he becomes one in his realignment of ultimate priorities. St. Augustine taught about the proper alignment of priorities based on the biblical teaching to love God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind and your neighbor as yourself. According to Augustine, the biblical hierarchy is God, neighbor, self and any deviation from this alignment of priorities is sin. When three supernatural visitors upend Scrooge’s priorities, the result is something akin to the biblical model; and this is where the power of the story lies. The most amazing thing about Scrooge’s “conversion,” is the wretched nature of his former self. Dickens pulls no punches in his description of Scrooge’s selfishness to the extent that, “Even the blind men’s dogs appeared to know him; and when they saw him coming on, would tug their owners into doorways and up courts; and then would wag their tails as though they said, ‘No eye at all is better than an evil eye, dark master!'” It is this grim picture of a dark and cold human heart that makes the radical change so much sweeter. And such is the true nature of the Gospel, turning darkness into light and blindness into sight.

Continue reading “Good Will Toward Men. . . .”

The Christmas Gift

1149234golden-retriever-puppy-in-bucket-canis-familiaris-illinois-usa-postersQuoting Robert Russell:

Dr. James Dobson relates a story of an elderly woman named Stella Thornhope who was struggling with her first Christmas alone. Her husband had died just a few months prior through a slow developing cancer. Now, several days before Christmas, she was almost snowed in by a brutal weather system. She felt terribly alone-so much so she decided she was not going to decorate for Christmas.

Late that afternoon the doorbell rang, and there was a delivery boy with a box. He said, “Mrs. Thornhope?” She nodded. He said, “Would you sign here?” She invited him to step inside and closed the door to get away from the cold. She signed the paper and said, “What’s in the box?” The young man laughed and opened up the flap, and inside was a little puppy, a golden Labrador Retriever. The delivery boy picked up the squirming pup and explained, “This is for you, Ma’am. He’s six weeks old, completely housebroken.” The young puppy began to wiggle in happiness at being released from captivity.

“Who sent this?” Mrs. Thornhope asked.

The young man set the animal down and handed her an envelope and said, “It’s all explained here in this envelope, Ma’am. The dog was bought last July while its mother was still pregnant. It was meant to be a Christmas gift to you.” The young man then handed her a book, How to Care for Your Labrador Retriever.

In desperation she again asked, “Who sent me this puppy?”

As the young man turned to leave, he said, “Your husband, Ma’am. Merry Christmas.”

She opened up the letter from her husband. He had written it three weeks before he died and left it with the kennel owners to be delivered with the puppy as his last Christmas gift to her. The letter was full of love and encouragement and admonishments to be strong. He vowed that he was waiting for the day when she would join him. He had sent her this young animal to keep her company until then.

She wiped away the tears, put the letter down, and then remembering the puppy at her feet, she picked up that golden furry ball and held it to her neck. Then she looked out the window at the lights that outlined the neighbor’s house, and she heard from the radio in the kitchen the strains of “Joy to the World, the Lord has Come.” Suddenly Stella felt the most amazing sensation of peace washing over her. Her heart felt a joy and a wonder greater than the grief and loneliness.

“Little fella,” she said to the dog, “It’s just you and me. But you know what? There’s a box down in the basement I’ll bet you’d like. It’s got a little Christmas tree in it and some decorations and some lights that are going to impress you. And there’s a manger scene down there. Let’s go get it.”

God has a way of sending a signal of light to remind us life is stronger than death. Light is more powerful than darkness. God is more powerful than Satan. Good will overcome evil. (Preaching Today)

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light,” the prophet said. “On those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned” (Matthew 4:16).

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