Celebrating Christmas during this crazy year of the pandemic.
Tonight I sit here thinking about what to say for my first Christmas message here on the Alaskan Outlaw podcast, as it has been half a year on-air. Here in south-central Alaska winter has settled in, bringing with it the magical snowfall that leads to many child’s favorite time of the year. Whether it’s hours spent sliding down hills on sleds, skating on frozen lakes or ponds, or the battle to end all battles played out with snowballs in yards throughout the state, this is a most magical time of the year. For parents, and adults alike, the falling snow brings a hush over the cities, towns and villages throughout the state. For most individuals here in Alaska, the countdown has begun to that magical night, when that jolly old elf that lives up the road near Fairbanks in the North Pole will visit every home throughout the world with gifts for the young, and the young at heart. Just as importantly as keeping us “being nice” for fear of appearing on Santa’s naughty list, there comes the idea of social responsibility that comes with this time of year. By passing on the magic to those less fortunate, as that is truly what the spirit of Christmas is really all about.
Tonight I find myself struggling to put words to paper, as the true meaning of Christmas has become so distorted and diluted in the age of political correctness that it technically doesn't even seem like a religious celebration any more. In times past it may have been easy to pen a new novel about the backbone of the annual Christian holidays, the celebration of the birth of God’s only son, Jesus, the Christ. The peace and joy shared among all men and women, the innocence of children filling the air with peels of laughter, and squeals of pure, unbridled joy. Christians are taught from a very young age, that this birth was a sign from the All-Father, and he was sent as a beacon of hope as to how to live our lives. A gift, or present, to the humans of that time, as well as all of us after. The miracles he performed throughout his life, and even after his death, he rose and once again, walked among men. He was born into a time of rampant sin, and although he was incapable of sinning, even his closest disciples struggled to limit their sin. Since those days to now, the Christian church has struggled to follow the same teachings that they have sought obedience to, many times by force. Today, I have found Americans deeply divided on the subject of Christianity as a whole. However irrelevant of your feelings about Christianity, the underlying principles that are attributed to this man, Jesus, remain as an integral part of the spirit of Christmas. To this end, has a new definition of Christmas been fed to modern man? Has Christmas really strayed from its initial intention and meaning, moving to a secular celebration of Capitalism at its worst? As I look around the country I find a substantial group turning away from God. In every aspect of modern life, many have collectively functioned together to remove the underlying belief in God completely.
Greetings friends, family (always gotta call out my mom) and certainly my beautiful bride for over thirty years, fellow Vets, fellow Alaskans, and Americans wherever you are. I want to wish each and every one of you a Merry Christmas, and a very happy New Year, I really mean that from the bottom of my heart. Just to be done with 2020 should be all the reason we need to celebrate. Welcome to the Alaskan Outlaw podcast, I am the Alaskan Outlaw, today I hope to pass on the hope that the New Year will get us closer to crushing this pandemic and returning to our normal lives. I hope the promise of the soon-to-be-delivered COVID vaccines restores your faith that life here in the US will return to normal soon., and not a NEW NORMAL, but the normal we remember, obviously with a few caveats. At the same time, I hope to remind you of the real reason for this season, as well as the real meaning of Christmas.
While many of you may be cringing with the idea that I'm pulling out my minister hat to bring fire and brimstone (after all I did graduate from a Baptist University). But alas, I'm sorry to disappoint, but while the meaning of Christmas is really not hinged upon the Christian religion. Today’s message is about hope. It’s about the promise of peace, joy and love being spread throughout the world. The spirit of the season does not recognize the color of skin, the sexual orientation, nor any other factor, but merely the hearts of individuals, the caring for other's needs before their own. The idea that we can all coexist peacefully should be the quality that binds us.
In 1897, little eight year old Virginia O'Hanlon penned a letter to the (then) editor of the New York's Sun newspaper asking them to validate the existence of the mythical elf, Santa Claus. Veteran newsman Francis Pharcellus Church penned a response that, in my opinion, should define your feelings about this season. Mr. Church's response, he says, and I quote;
New York Sun Newspaper Sept. 21, 1897
“ VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except 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.”
While her letter requested validation of Santa Claus, the idea that he was an embodiment of all the hope, and joy, brought to children around the world every year, on one special night. This story of Santa Claus stems from people's belief in their God, and the need for us all to retain our eternal hope. I'm not here to debate it, nor try to persuade you to believe in it, each of us has our own journey back to their idea of God. I am here to say that all of the doctrines that I have read, and studied, have an emissary to God, via a man. Whether that man be a prophet, a King, a Warrior, or a teacher, the story of this emissary helps us all with our connection to God. Whether you call your dirty Allah, Yahweh, God, Buddha, Zeus, or Odin, it really doesn’t matter, what matters is that each of these names refer to a single omnipotent being who created mankind in his image. He created us to be the caretakers of others (specifically the beasts of the garden) according to the Christian Holy Bible and Muslim Quarantine. Historically, the idea that Jesus was born on a pagan harvest celebration, I think, further highlights the real meaning behind the holiday. The Germanic tribes celebrated Yule, while the Romans celebrated Saturnalia. Most holidays during late winter were centered around food. Whether it be the Romans thanking a God of Agriculture, or the Norse celebrating the solstice for as many as 12 days, or Europeans celebrating not having to feed the slaughtered cows for the rest of winter, it typically centered around being thankful for what they had received. What better time to plug in another holiday that celebrated the birth of a Savior.
The more we listen to the news, or the social circus, we are confronted constantly with ways of division, and segregation, yet, many people throughout the world are neutral in their recognition of our differences. However, many communities have descended into the abyss of racism, sexism, personal superiority conflicts that continue to foster the political narrative. With the racial bias, and guilt until innocent, we have strayed, as a nation, so far from the place of peace and coexistence, that I’m convinced we may never make it back there. Drugs, alcohol, sex, and violence has become mainstream as a nation we have lost the innocence of earlier times. Many times I feel as if the nation, as a whole, is on the verge of a societal break down. I clearly remember the cinders of rage smoldering brightly as the nation concluded a bitterly contested presidential election, closely following several highly publicized court decisions contrary to desired public justice. The overburdened justice system failing for both parties as: murderers and rapists walked free, whether they wore a badge or not. Convicts living in a better state than some Americans, as well as better than some veterans. Where even the formerly esteemed clergy were now surrounded with suspicion and guilt, and a serious loss of societal trust. The hate fueled by a political rhetoric, ushered in opportunistic crime that further crippled a struggling economy, meanwhile it was discovered that the most powerful man in the world owes $450M dollars to unknown parties. My friends, the nation, as a whole, needs to pick itself up, dust itself off, and get this done. We need to stop using stereotypes to define our interactions, and learn to expect the best from our fellow man.
Many have confided in me throughout the years how they feel awkward, and somewhat threatened by other religions not celebrating their major holidays with them. That it’s a disgrace of sort, which sounds like it is the early church attempting to force its constituents in enforcing its might. This is backwards thinking. If, you are not comfortable with your doctrine (beliefs) of worshipping your idea of God, then you aren’t really as Christian as you confess to be. By blaming others for not sharing your view of religion is one of the earliest form of segregation.
Regardless of your religious affiliation, we can all recognize that (if) there was a man named Jesus, and (if) he did those things described in the Christian Holy Bible, even if you don’t agree with him being God’s son, he did indeed provide us with a blueprint as to how to live a happy, purposeful life. The United States was founded by persons who were convinced beyond rational thought, that these facts were true, maybe we all could give peace a chance.
As I mentioned in the earlier part of the show, I want this to be a message of hope, of peace, loving our fellow man. So, while the holiday is, indeed the celebration of the birth of a savior, the many other holidays celebrated by pagans for hundreds of thousand of years prior to the establishment of the Christian church, still provide enough reason for us to come together as the human race to celebrate the peace we, ourselves, have the power to make.
I come to you this Christmas to ask that we look beyond those political lies that have separated the human race for too long. The anonymous power dealers of Washington DC have sought to keep the American people under control by attempting to keep the infighting alive and growing. I pray tonight that we, the American people, crush this and come together with peoples from around the world to harmoniously coexist in peace and love. So, regardless of any color, sex, religion, creed, or whether your “inner city” or country-town USA, it matters not. We, yes we the American people, have the power to remove all the barriers that those power mongers keep trying to put up, and come together as the human race.
Tonight, as we part ways, I’d like to read my personal favorite Christmas story, that always helps to remind me of the “magic” of Christmas, as well as the innocence of the children. The innocence we used to have.
"A Visit from St. Nicholas", more commonly known as "The Night Before Christmas" and "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" from its first line, is a poem first published anonymously in 1823 and later attributed to Clement Clarke Moore, who claimed authorship in 1837
Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her ’kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;
"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St. Nicholas too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a pedler just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle,
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night."
[Submitted by Mark Weisman]