Community Comment:

Examination of holiday's true meaning is important

A few weeks ago, the Courier editorial page featured a "Mallard Fillmore" cartoon strip in which our little avian friend suggested we send holiday greetings wishing everyone a "very, very, Generic Holiday Season.'"

While one can only hope that his quacky tongue was firmly planted in the side of his long beak, later in the day, a radio advertisement announced an upcoming performance of Handel's "Messiah."  The ad features a time-honored, tradition of Christmas chorus which is heard by all of us every advent season -- the text taken from the prophetic King James scriptures of Isaiah 9:6:  "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given:  and the government shall be upon his shoulder:  and his name shall be called, Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father the Prince of Peace."

With more than a modicum of irony, these two experiences showcase some of the cultural contradictions which may occur to some of us during this holiday season, as a great nation which extols "In God We Trust" on each instrument of currency cross-examines the honor and veracity of its highest elected official.

With the secularization of all mass media and most of popular culture these days, it becomes incumbent upon those whose profess to claim Jesus Christ as their personal, eternal , spiritual savior to remind the world of the greater meaning of the advent season both in terms of its relevance to the history of the Roman world 2,000 years ago and to all that has transpired since then.

Do we remember the extent to which the birth of Jesus Christ frightened the leadership of the Roman occupation of Israel at the time?  Do we remember that a short time later, a decree went out from an angry King Herod to kill all the infant children in Bethlehem?  Can we recall that this celebrated birth and the life to follow was perceived by many to be the fulfillment of a Hebraic prophetic tradition extending back some 800 years? 

Upon most of us who are preoccupied with shopping, decorating our houses with lights, addressing holiday greetings, backing cookies and all the other activities which make this one of the most frenetic months of the year, all of this is lost. 

We forget that Isaiah, or the three to six different authors who may have had a hand in writing the ancient scrolls -- lived during a tumultuous period of Jewish history when the Hebraic people were beset by many powerful enemies. 

Amid a war-torn world of bloodshed, occupation and internal strife, one of the things which disturbed Isaiah and his successors was that the Jewish people had fallen away from the old traditions professed by Moses and others who led Israel out of bondage.

In many respects, the obligations and responsibilities which old Isaiah and his fellow prophets assumed during their lives were not totally unlike those assumed by Jesus during his lifetime, the disciples, Paul and all serious Christians since then.  These include an uncompromising commitment to ethical principles,  a dedication to faith, hope and charity and personal responsibility for moral action and a belief in a God of love and mercy as opposed to a God of vengeance, jealousy and appeasement.

Finally, Christianity requires a belief in our eternal salvation as a gift purchased by Jesus on the cross of Calvary for all men and women of all races, faiths and ethnic extractions.

As Pope John Paul II has argued around the world in many venues and settings to Christians of all denominations, "Be Not Afraid" to share the good news of Jesus Christ.  Old Isaiah and those who followed would understand that.  The question is, in these troubled times, do we?

David Coker is an Evansville free-lance writer.