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YULE IS TIME FOR FORGIVING - EVEN IF ONLY FOR A FEW DAYS

SHARE YULE IS TIME FOR FORGIVING - EVEN IF ONLY FOR A FEW DAYS

At this time of year, I consider it a Christmas bonus to make a point again by repeating something that I published before. Although most of the world is not Christian, and despite the crass commercialization of the holiday, it still seems that for a moment there is some peace on earth. Armies use Christmas as an excuse to stop fighting. The season used to be a time when Belfast in Northern Ireland could act normally for a few days because the IRA and other paramili- taries would stop fighting, but only for the season. Nonbelievers and believers alike find reason to forgive at Christmas, if only temporarily.

Perhaps it's something in our DNA, or at least in our culture. It may be something even in our language, an English language rich with Biblical language that we often don't even recognize. Perhaps Christmas is a time to remind ourselves that the very words we use day to day come from a religious tradition. That is why I can write a Christmas greeting with allusion to Biblical verse in every sentence.City councils must be "at their wits end" (Psalms 107:27) advising constituents, "let us reason together" (Isaiah 1:18) as they discuss the annual civic Christmas issue of religious displays. Opponents of the displays call them worse than "good for nothing" (Matthew 5:13) and tantamount to a government shout "from the housetops" (Matthew 10:27) in support of religion. The opponents suggest that the displays violate the spirit and the letter of the law (Romans 2:29) which is "no respecter of persons" (Acts 10:34) or beliefs.

Some religious groups also oppose secular sponsorship of religion as a "pearl of great price" (Matthew 13:46) that is "cast before swine" (Matthew 7:6). Some even argue that the displays are "graven images" (Exodus 20:4) and regard them with "weeping and wailing" (Esther 4:3).

Those who support religious displays by cities often see the city councils "as a stumbling block" (Leviticus 19:14) on the straight and narrow path (Matthew 7:14). They look for a "scapegoat" (Leviticus 16:8) to blame such as the ACLU which they consider a fly in the ointment (Ecclesiastes 10:1) that harps on a twice told tale (Psalms 90:9). These people see rights going "here a little, and there a little" (Isaiah 38:1). They say the handwriting is on the wall (Daniel 5:5) and prophesy the end because "no man can serve two masters" (Matthew 6:24).

"In the beginning" (Genesis 1:1) it may help if both sides "saw the light" (Genesis 1:4: Acts 9:3) and recognized that the Bible and it's words have become "the voice of the people" (I Samuel 8:7) in this promised land (Genesis 11:4). That is not to say that our land of "milk and honey" (Exodus 14:22) is "holier than thou" (Isaiah 40:15) and a Christian nation.

"The root of the matter" (Job 19:28) is that the language of our culture has some of its roots in the Bible. "The book of Life" (Revelations 3:5) has become secular and has "turned the world upside down" (Acts 17:6). In fact we "labor in vain" (Psalms 127:1) if we try to speak without quoting the Bible. This makes it impossible to separate the wheat from the chaff (Matthew 3:12) or the state from religion or the Bible from our culture. "In the beginning was the Word" (John 1:1) and the word is still with us in everything we say.

Most would agree that we can't "live by bread alone" (Deuteronomy 8:3 and Matthew 4:4) and that "the spirit giveth life" (II Corinthians 3:6). Perhaps this includes a spirit of Christmas as a time to bind up wounds (Psalms 147:3) and try to "See eye to eye" (Isaiah 52:8) even with those with whom we disagree.

The issue of religious displays is after all a drop in the bucket (Isaiah 40:15) compared with the problems of brotherly love that we should work on during this season. Perhaps people of all persuasions could pour oil on "troubled waters (Psalms 46:3) as peacemakers (Matthew 5:9) that the world desperately needs.

It should be as "clear as crystal" (Revelations 22:1) to opponents of civic religious displays as well as to supporters that we will never be "all of one mind" (I Peter 3:8) and that city councils have "weightier matters of the law" (Matthew 23:23) to deal with for "lo, these many years" (Luke 15:29). Since Christmas is a time for "brotherly love" (Revelations 12:10) perhaps it is also a time to recognize that "the powers that be" (Romans 13:1) can't be "all things to all men" (I Corinthians 9:22) and enjoy a season of "peace on earth good will to all" (Luke 2:14) without the traditional annual arguments. "Amen" (Numbers 5:22).