To the point for week 12/21/06

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CHRISTMAS DAY IS NEARLY here, and as we scurry around trying to finish our shopping and make visits to family and friends and get the food ready and the Christmas goodies; this is also a time when we need to understand the importance of the day we are observing.

The American Civil Liberties Union and other organizations have been successful in many ways in making Christmas a civic holiday – not a religious one. They fight the placing of nativity scenes on public property; and they don’t want employees saying “Merry Christmas” as you enter or leave some stores.

Flyers and advertisements want your business, but urge you to do your “holiday shopping” with them, because there is an effort to water down Christmas as not to offend anyone.

All of these groups cite the separation of church and state as their reasoning for their objections. They say that a nativity in a public place offends people of other faiths, and that by putting Christian symbols on public property, the government is promoting one faith over another.

But your forefathers, in making sure that there was a separation between church and state in the Bill of Rights, didn’t want to eliminate religion – as the ACLU and others would have you believe – but instead wanted to make sure that the government did not create a religion and then require everyone to be a part of it.

Remember: they came from a country where you were a member of the Church of England at the moment you were born, whether you wanted to be or not.

So in creating a new country with a new direction, the founding fathers wanted to give each of us the freedom to exercise our religious values in whatever way we saw fit.

Want to place a Menorah at the courthouse in observance of Hanukkah? I think that’s great, because in part you are exercising your freedom to celebrate a holiday of your faith.

Should radical extremist groups be allowed to display their symbols? Not at Christmas time.

Before you cry foul, the difference is that the Jewish community is celebrating their religious holiday; just as Christians are celebrating their religious holiday. Neither group is using another holiday to promote their own agenda. The African American community celebrates Kwanzaa, which hearkens to their heritage.

If you want to celebrate Christmas, but you want to do it in a civil way, then celebrate it at some other time, not now.

Like it or not, Christmas is the observance of the birth of Jesus Christ. Yes, there’s the legend of St. Nicholas, but Santa Claus exists because Christmas exists – not vise versa.

There’s no evidence that Jesus was actually born on December 25th, you say? Well, there’s no evidence that Pilgrims gathered and feasted on the fourth Thursday in November, either, but you still eat the turkey.

Regardless of the date, December 25th is the observance. You may study and find that the birth date is closer to spring; but there’s no birth certificate filed in the Bethlehem health department, so you’ll just have to work through it.

Christmas is a historic observance of a real occurrence. I believe that with all of my heart. I also believe that Hanukkah celebrates the eight days that the oil lamps miraculously burned in celebration of the victory of the Maccabees and the rededication of the Jerusalem Temple.

So this Monday we will all get up early and we’ll open all sorts of presents and eat way too much food. We’ll travel to visit family and friends; and we’ll enjoy the day off. Nearly every store will be closed in observance, with just emergency workers still on call.

For a day the madness and rush of our world will stop – or at least slow down – and we’ll spend time doing things that should be important to us in the first place: spending time with family and recognizing the importance that they have in our lives.

You’ll do that regardless of whether or not you found a PlayStation 3 or an Elmo TMX. If the pants don’t fit or the skirt is a horrid color. If the turkey’s too dry or the potatoes are too runny.

And all because a baby was born in a stable more than 2,000 years ago.

That’s the true meaning of Monday.

Merry Christmas.