The Lord's Grace
Stories about the spirit of Christmas
On May 12, 1962, General of the Army, Douglas MacArthur, bid farewell to the corps of the United States Military Academy at West Point. He was 82 years old, yet he delivered one of the most memorable American oratories of the 20th Century. In his charge to the cadets, he passionately exhorted them to comprehend that “the very obsession of your public service must be Duty, Honor, Country.” In his closing remarks, General MacArthur said:
You are the leaven, which binds together the entire fabric of our national system of defense. From your ranks come the great captains who hold the Nation's destiny in their hands the moment the war tocsin sounds.
In no uncertain terms, the general was telling the cadets, “you cannot escape your duty…you cannot serve without honor…you cannot fail your country. The ghosts of your fallen comrades would rise from their cross-marked graves and hold you answerable to…duty, honor, country.”
The long gray line has never failed us. Were you to do so, a million ghosts in olive drab, in brown khaki, in blue and gray, would rise from their white crosses, thundering those magic words: Duty, Honor, Country.
Douglas MacArthur died on April 4, 1964, but as long as his words continue to reverberate through the halls of West Point, there is little worry about the future of the United States Military Academy or the defense of our nation…America will be in good hands.
However, the approach of the Christmas holiday offers a persistent reminder that America is in another a struggle—a battle that is more ominous than one fought with guns and bullets. That is, a spiritual battle which focuses on the ancient debate that questions just who Jesus is, and what is a Christian’s responsibility in a struggle St. Paultells us is “not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness…”
Riding on the back of the Supreme Court’s edict calling for “separation of church and state,” anti-Christian organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union have been relentless in their efforts to purge the true Christmas message from the public arena.
At Christmas time, public schools celebrate “Winter Holiday” and Christmas carols are sung without reference to Christ; we are deluged with “holiday” catalogues with nary a mention of Christ or Christmas; “Happy Holidays” is the modern substitute for “Merry Christmas”; and nativity scenes, crosses, and other Christian symbolism are subject to relentless legal challenges. Indeed, the missing man of Christmas is Jesus, Himself—banished from the holiday as an unwelcome guest at dinner or marginalized into irrelevance.
Here in Fairfax County, Virginia, the public school system—the nation’s twelfth largest—officially recognizes some 106 cultural and religious holidays, each of which is identified with a specific learning experience for the student. Including the familiar Christian and Jewish holidays, the school system acknowledges approximately sixty-six religious holidays, celebrating a wide range of Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Baha’i, Jain, and Mormon holy days.
The Fairfax County public schools even acknowledge the December 22 winter solstice as an observance by modern Wiccans of the promise of Spring, and the April 30 Beltane Wiccan spring festival of creation. Each festival is considered an “opportunity to discuss effects of ancient cultures and folklore on modern society.”
Officials are careful to point out that “the designations ‘B.C.E.’ (before the common era) and ‘C.E.’ (common era) are used in some of the annotations because ‘B.C.’ (before Christ) and ‘A.D.’ (Anno Domini: in the year of our Lord) may not be appropriate in certain contexts.” [Emphasis added].
It is worth noting that there is a spiritual corollary to General MacArthur’s charge to the cadets in the New Testament account of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. In Luke 19:37-40, we read:
When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!"
The Pharisees did not recognize Him for who He was and called on Jesus to rebuke those who dared call Him a “king” coming in the name of the Lord. Jesus answered that the stones would cry out if His disciples remained quiet. In other words, even the lifeless elements of creation knew better who Jesus was than the religious leaders of the day.
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, "Teacher, rebuke your disciples!"
“I tell you," he replied, "if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out."
President Ulysses S. Grant declared Christmas a federal holiday on June 26, 1870, commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ and His birth date is the standard by which Western civilization sets the timeline of history. Nevertheless, present day America, like the Pharisees in the story, seem incapable of grasping who He is and what He did. Perhaps we’re waiting for a Luke 19:40 Christmas, when creation itself will break the silence.
Al Dobras is a freelance writer on religious and cultural issues and an electronics engineer. He lives in Springfield, Virginia.