I must commend President Barack Obama for getting closer this year to conveying the true message of Christmas. But how does that saying go, "Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades"?
This time last year, President Obama botched his yuletide yodels. Preceding presidents took pride in America's Judeo-Christian and Christmas heritage, but President Obama -- on Dec. 24, 2009, with the first lady at his side -- delivered the most brief, impersonal and impotent religious admonition in the history of presidential Christmas addresses, describing the incomparable Bethlehem miracle as merely containing a benign "message of peace and brotherhood that continues to inspire more than 2,000 years after Jesus' birth."
This year, the president's speechwriters are trying to figure out how to refer enough to the birth of Christ in his Christmas addresses that others don't think he's a Muslim, but not smack of being so Christian that they alienate the president's progressive, Islamic and atheistic base.
Though their speech attempts started better this December than last, both of this year's attempts ended up neutering the soul of Christmas.
The first was during Obama's remarks at the lighting of the National Christmas Tree on Dec. 9: "Each year, we've come together to celebrate a story that has endured for two millennia ... a message that's universal: A child was born far from home to spread a simple message of love and redemption to every human being around the world."
So far, so good. I appreciated the president's speechwriters actually using the word "redemption."
So I guess in the next sentence, he will explain the true message of Christmas, how the Savior was born to die and redeem mankind from the power of sin and death.
Not exactly. Here's Obama's next sentence and his explanation of the Christmas message: "It's a message that says no matter who we are or where we are from, no matter the pain we endure or the wrongs we face, we are called to love one another as brothers and as sisters."
I don't know what Bible the president is reading, but the Christmas message is not about civil rights or social justice and welfare.
He even elaborated on that pseudo-Christmas message a few nights later, Dec. 12, while being flanked by the first lady and his eldest daughter. The president spoke during the "Christmas in Washington" celebration at the National Building Museum: "This season reminds us that more than 2,000 years ago, a child born in a stable brought our world a redeeming gift of peace and salvation. It's a story with a message that speaks to us to this day -- that we are called to love each other as we love ourselves, that we are our brother's keeper and our sister's keeper."
In the words of President Ronald Reagan, "There you go again."
President Obama, I hate to burst your community-coordinator caring bubble. But though it was a critical part of Christ's adult message -- 30 years after his birth -- mutual or reciprocated love isn't what the story of Christmas is about. It's about God's love for helpless sinners. Franklin Roosevelt even said in his 1942 Christmas message, "I say that loving our neighbor as we love ourselves is not enough -- that we as a Nation and as individuals will please God best by showing regard for the laws of God."
Let me allow the angel who spoke these words to Jesus' earthly father, Joseph, in a dream to explain it as he did 2,000 years ago: "Mary will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." Or as the angel foretold to the shepherds in the field: "Today in the town of Bethlehem a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord."
Mr. President, Christmas is just a few days away, but it's not too late to ante up and get it right. You have the best opportunity in some years, as your weekly address falls on Christmas morning. In fact, I think I'll even put a pause on my family's reading of the biblical Christmas story in expectation that you'll set the mood by reading it!
And if your speechwriters are on Christmas break and you need a script for your teleprompters, just cite a president who didn't milk down the specifics of the story or his Christian faith, Ronald Reagan, in his 1981 Christmas address, televised and on the radio from the Oval Office for the entire nation and world to hear: "At this special time of year, we all renew our sense of wonder in recalling the story of the first Christmas in Bethlehem, nearly 2,000 years ago. Some celebrate Christmas as the birthday of a great and good philosopher and teacher. Others of us believe in the divinity of the child born in Bethlehem, that he was and is the promised Prince of Peace. ... Like the shepherds and wise men of that first Christmas, we Americans have always tried to follow a higher light, a star, if you will. At lonely campfire vigils along the frontier, in the darkest days of the Great Depression, through war and peace, the twin beacons of faith and freedom have brightened the American sky. At times, our footsteps may have faltered, but trusting in God's help, we've never lost our way. ... So, let this holiday season be for us a time of rededication. ... Tonight, in millions of American homes, the glow of the Christmas tree is a reflection of the love (of) Jesus. ... Christmas means so much because of one special child."