Christmas Eve – 2012 – Joseph and Mary Dinner

It’s very early, Christmas morning as I begin this.  Everyone is still asleep.  Outside it’s dark and foggy.  It’s been raining steadily for a couple of weeks.

Reflecting on 2012, it was a year of many challenges, like most years.  But, in this moment, I am filled with joy and gratitude.  My eyes fill as I think of the wondrous Christmas Eve we spent as a family last night. An old family tradition was revisited, but it came alive as never before.

We have called it the Joseph and Mary Dinner.  Our tradition has been to celebrate Christmas Eve simply, as they might have, eating the things they might have eaten, as poor travelers, quietly pondering unfolding events that they could not have understood.

Sometimes, with the best intentions, traditions wander into unintended territory and lose the essence of what they are meant to commemorate.  So it is with modern Christmas traditions that ring, not with joy and hope, but with hollowness.
There have been years when our Joseph and Mary dinner crept outside its roots, looking more like a celebration of Middle Eastern cuisine.
But last night we celebrated well.  No shepherds clothed in bathrobes, no dolls wrapped in dish towels.  It was a simple meal of dates, goat cheese, flat bread and grape juice.  Probably much more than they enjoyed that night.  But this time, the meal wasn’t the point nor the focus.  Rather than the traditional reading of the Christmas story, each family member had been challenged to bring their favorite scripture about Christ.  I think we had all struggled a bit to choose one as we stepped outside the traditional story.  But the ensuing discussion was rich and full.  We celebrated much more than a vague image of a few people from long ago in a strange and unfamiliar land, huddled around a tiny baby in a barn.

Following the sharing of scriptures and their very personal significance, we gathered around the piano to sing the sacred Christmas carols.  My voice is nearly gone, I hope only temporarily.  I could barely croak out the tunes.  But it was magical.  Instead of focusing on making lovely music with four-part harmony, we traded turns, each reading one stanza of the lyrics of all the carols in our hymn book.  The reading revealed new meaning as the poetic phrases came to life unencumbered by the rhythms of the music.

“And, at last our eyes shall see Him, through His own redeeming Love”
Once in Royal David’s City

“Shepherds, why this Jubilee? Why your joyous strains prolong?  What the gladsome tidings be which inspire your heavenly song?”
– Angels We Have Heard on High

“No more will sin and sorrow grow, nor thorns infest the ground; He’ll come and make the blessings flow far as the curse was found.”
Joy to the World

I was humbled as I contrasted our family birthday celebrations with birthday cakes against God’s majesty and power in the way He celebrated the event with the brightest star ever seen in the heavens.
O Little Town of Bethlehem

Then, we sang from the heart with full meaning expressed in joyful celebration.
“Joy to the World”
“Jesus, Lord at thy birth” –  Silent Night
“Hosanna” – With Wondering Awe
“Noël” (look it up, we did) – The First Noël
“Hallelujah!” – Silent Night
“Sing in exultation”Oh, Come All Ye Faithful
Gloria in excelsis Deo – Angels we have heard on high
… and more

I will not profane the sacred experience by attempting to recount the things we spoke of.  Only this.  This has already been the best Christmas of my life.  I am overwhelmed with a sense of hope, peace, joy and gratitude to my God and Savior.  And, I look forward to 2013 and beyond with more confidence that, come what may, it will be wonderful, good and right.  Now, to hold on to that feeling throughout the year.

Merry Christmas to All
May your lives be filled with the unspeakable joy of Christmas.

Flaws Emerge in Libertarian Philosophy

Sharing a thread from the Village internal bulletin board (names changed to protect privacy):

I participate on a variety of libertarian forums and lately there has been discussion of “moral relativism” and “moral universalism”. The libertarians on these boards feel that morality is something that is subjective to the individual and that no one can actually say if there is such a thing as “good or bad”.  In other words, the intense desire for freedom and independence among many libertarians seems to also be trying to throw off the shackles of any moral code as well.

To me this appears like libertarianism is descending into “nihilism”.  I was deeply disturbed to see how many libertarians subscribe to the idea that there is no “objective” way to determine right and wrong.  Following this philosophy to its logical conclusion leaves us disagreeing with murderers, rapists, etc. but without a basis on which to condemn their actions because the “goodness” or “badness” of their actions is relative to their own personal perspective.  I think this is a dangerous trend emerging among libertarians.

—- Gary —–

Gary, I share your concerns. This is one reason I think it best not to identify oneself too closely with any popular external line of reasoning, philosophy or thought. It is so easy to be branded with their follies. While there are many elements of libertarianism that are compatible with natural law and truth, there are also elements that are twisted to serve the interests of corrupt and evil men. This is true of every philosophy. Hence, I prefer to be known as an independent thinker, not a subscriber to someone else’s philosophy.

As founder of the Village, I feel an obligation to weigh in clearly on your excellent point.

There IS such a thing as absolute right, wrong, good, evil and truth. I have observed, over time that while “facts” tend to change based on men’s perceptions of truth, truth does not. While we do not require Villagers to subscribe to the fine points of any particular religious doctrine or creed, we ask that all aspire to be practitioners of Judeo-Christian or other compatible religious teachings. This is the law and the prophets: Love God and Love others as yourself. The basic ten and other scriptural commandments are only descriptors of the highest commandment.

There is a fundamental, correct libertarian notion that crimes that harm victims are the worst crimes. Crimes that harm others justify punishment and/or the use of police or military force to protect people who would otherwise be victims.

But, I hold that “victimless crimes” can also be crimes. The victim of so-called “victimless crimes” is the self.  These crimes are against natural law, God and truth. They frequently lead to harmful acts against other victims. But, victimless crime is only punishable through natural consequences and by God. When governments take it upon themselves to prosecute victimless crimes, they tread on sacred, personal ground. It leads to speech and even thought control, wars on drugs, prohibition against drinking raw milk, raising one’s own garden, harvesting rain from the sky on one’s own roof, use of natural medicinal treatments and all kinds of incursions on personal freedom of choice.

Whenever personal freedoms are abridged to this extent and the state presumes to bear all accountability for choice, a general rejection of personal accountability is the natural consequence. When there is a tear in the fabric of personal accountability, social systems fail and mankind reverts to a survival of the fittest mentality and a rejection of all law and order.

Joseph Smith made one of the simplest and wisest statements on government when he said,

“I teach men correct principles and they govern themselves”.

Clearly, within this statement is the assumption that there is a difference between correct and incorrect principles.

Lest there be any confusion over the principles under which the Village on Sewanee Creek chooses to be governed, this is it.

—- 1st Villager —