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
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
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
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.