On December 25, we will celebrate the birth of the Declaration’s Creator.
Thomas Jefferson described writing the first draft of the Declaration of Independence as streaming thought from quill to papyrus in a single sitting. Not all of his original prose survived the committee edits leading up to the Fourth of July signing. Some of his wording was shamefully omitted; some much improved.
But the quintessence of Jefferson’s missive was beautifully crafted by the council as, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed— That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
The phrasing is so elegant, it should be set to a cantata.
These men who crafted and signed our founding document were well educated in Biblical studies. They not only knew who the Creator is, they also understood that a government of, by, and for the people was subject to the imperfect management of those humans.
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” So say the opening words of the Bible. The Book of John adds detail to that description with, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. ... The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”
Isaiah predicted that the Word would enter his creation with an intriguing allusion to the ultimate executive administration, “For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.”
This image of the Creator’s future manner of governing is an unreachable model by us mere mortals. The founders’ declaration recognizes the dependability of an eternal Creator while leaving instructions for abolishing the very government that they stood up, when it inevitably goes awry.
Matthew quotes Isaiah with, “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel -- which means, ‘God with us.’”
And Luke (or was it Linus?) relayed the supernatural announcement of the event that we recognize with a national holiday this week, “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them; and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not; for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.’”
Merry Christmas, America.