All cel­e­brate Christ­mas, but only the hum­ble re­ally know why.

Ev­ery­one cel­e­brates it, but only the hum­ble know why

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - By Cal Thomas Cal Thomas is a na­tion­ally syn­di­cated colum­nist. His lat­est book is “What Works: Com­mon Sense So­lu­tions for a Stronger Amer­ica” (Zon­der­van, 2014).

Fa­mil­iar­ity doesn’t al­ways breed con­tempt. Not if it’s a fa­mil­iar­ity with Christ­mas. While Amer­ica and much of the world are fo­cus­ing at­ten­tion on the com­ing of the new pres­i­dent, lit­tle at­ten­tion is paid to a gift not even the world’s rich­est per­son could pay for and which is even to­day not re­ceived by many to whom it is of­fered. The year 2017 marks the 500th an­niver­sary of the be­gin­ning of the Protes­tant Ref­or­ma­tion. A look back at one of the great­est ser­mons ever preached about Christ­mas by the man cred­ited with split­ting Chris­tian­ity from the dom­i­nant Ro­man Catholic Church seems ap­pro­pri­ate.

Martin Luther’s un­der­stand­ing of what we eu­phemisti­cally call “the real mean­ing of Christ­mas” was ab­so­lute. After un­der­scor­ing the hum­ble back­grounds of Mary and Joseph and not­ing how rich trav­el­ers stayed in far bet­ter sur­round­ings than the sta­ble the two who would be­come the world’s most fa­mous cou­ple were forced to oc­cupy, Luther com­mented: “See, this is the first pic­ture with which Christ puts the world to shame and ex­poses all it does and knows. It shows that the world’s great­est wis­dom is fool­ish­ness, her best ac­tions are wrong and her great­est trea­sures are mis­for­tunes.”

Such a no­tion should hum­ble a politi­cian, even a pres­i­dent, if that were pos­si­ble. And yet too many among us put more faith in “princes and kings” in the false hope he (or she) can de­liver us, in­stead of the One who re­ally can.

Luther strips away any no­tion of dig­nity or honor, which we com­mer­cially ide­al­ize in man­u­fac­tured Na­tiv­ity scenes, when he says of Mary and Joseph: “They had nei­ther money nor in­flu­ence to se­cure a room in the inn, hence they were obliged to lodge in a sta­ble. O world, how stupid! O man, how blind thou art! But the birth it­self is still more piti­ful. There was no one to take pity on this young wife, who was for the first time to give birth to a child; no one to take to heart her con­di­tion that she, a stranger, did not have the least thing a mother needs in a birth-night. There she is with­out any prepa­ra­tion, with­out ei­ther light or fire, alone in the dark­ness, with­out any one of­fer­ing her ser­vice as is cus­tom­ary for women to do at such times.”

In the po­lar op­po­site of what hu­mankind longs for in fame, riches and honor, Luther speaks of the lowly shep­herds to whom the ini­tial an­nounce­ment of this unique birth was com­mu­ni­cated: “Be­hold how very richly God hon­ors those who are de­spised of men, and that very gladly. Here you see that his eyes look into the depths of hu­mil­ity, as is writ­ten, ‘He sit­teth above the cheru­bim’ and looketh into the depths. Nor could the an­gels find princes or valiant men to whom to com­mu­ni­cate the good news; but only un­learned lay­men, the most hum­ble peo­ple upon earth. Could they not have ad­dressed the high priests, who it was sup­posed knew so much con­cern­ing God and the an­gels? No, God chose poor shep­herds, who, though they were of low es­teem in the sight of men, were in heaven re­garded as wor­thy of such great grace and honor.”

Next month, we will in­au­gu­rate an­other U.S. pres­i­dent. Pomp, cer­e­mony and con­sid­er­able ego will be on dis­play. Two thou­sand years ago there was an­other “inau­gu­ra­tion” of sorts, one whose goal is out of reach of the smartest po­lit­i­cal leader. That One had — and has — the power to trans­form lives and fit them for an­other world. It is a world, ac­cord­ing to the baby born in Beth­le­hem of Judea who be­came a man and Sav­ior to bil­lions world­wide, that will — un­like this world and the lit­tle it of­fers — never pass away.

IL­LUS­TRA­TION BY LINAS GARSYS

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