This year, the politically correct gestures of seasonal salutation (Happy Holidays, Season's Greetings, etc.), which for too long have served as substitutes for the real thing, have become vacuous, stale and boring. This year, somehow, they seem especially inadequate to express the sentiment we so desperately need to hear at this moment in time.
In the last few years, I have sensed a desire on the part of many to return to the traditional greeting, "Merry Christmas." This year, anything else seems especially hollow.
We watch with horror, depression, anger or detachment as events unfold in Newtown, Connecticut, Washington, DC, the Middle East, or elsewhere in our fallen world. We listen to politicians offering to place Band-Aids on the open arteries of our national psyche, and we think, this can't be the answer!
For two thousand years, we have looked everywhere but a manger in Bethlehem.
Jesus Christ was born in the humblest of settings to become the Savior of all. This was by design, for at the time of His birth, even King Herod's men did not think to look in a stable for a king. Kings are born in palaces, among opulence and luxury. Jesus did not fit the template.
For two thousand years, the human race has continued to look for something more, something flashier, something more glorious, something greater. For those of us who passionately believe in the story of the Nativity, it is a clear reminder of why our faith is a life to be lived in the Spirit of the Living God. What could be greater than that?
That is the difference between Christianity and every other religion in the world. Scripture tells us what Christ had to say about Himself. He said, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father but by me." If that is not true, then He was either a liar or a lunatic, and no one believes that. In fact, virtually every other faith speaks of Jesus Christ as a wise prophet, a great teacher, or a good man, and other religions are willing to acknowledge that following Jesus is one of the ways to heaven. But Christ says He is the only way to heaven. No wonder He was crucified.
Christianity also is unique in that it proclaims that its central figure is still alive. Hindus think their leaders have been reincarnated. Buddha and his followers are thought to be part of some vast cosmos of energy. Mohammed, fiercely and violently defended though he may be, is still dead - and adherents to Islam know it. Even the bodies of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob have long ago turned to dust. Jesus Christ alone is believed by his followers to be physically alive, despite having faced the worst death imaginable.
Far too many in our society reject the simple gospel presented by Christ and his disciples in favor of alternative religions that teach vague notions of piety through good works. The social gospel of using government to create an earthly utopia will disappoint us every time. False prophets and self-serving politicians have always been at the forefront of man's disenchantment. They offer hope but dispense hopelessness. They promise freedom but deliver bondage - to an ideology, an idol or a doctrine. There is only one infallible answer. Discontented seekers of new age solutions to age-old problems need only look to the truth of the Christmas story.
This week, as we celebrate the miracle birth of a baby who would grow up to be both man and God, who would lay down His life as a sacrifice for the sins of those who would believe, we also should remember that He is still with us. Like Christmas itself, the reality of Christ persists and grows stronger. He was born, lived, died, and rose again. He ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of His Father, to make intercession for us, and He sent His Holy Spirit to live within those who would receive Him. What a story! To hundreds of millions of us, it is still the only one that makes sense, and He is our only source of true hope and of a truly Merry Christmas.
Doug Patton describes himself as a recovering political speechwriter who agrees with himself more often than not. Now working as a freelance writer, his weekly columns are syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. Comments can be made at firstname.lastname@example.org.