Keeping Christmas Well

“…even after seeing and speaking with his former partner Jacob Marley wrapped in the chains that he forged in this life; Scrooge dismisses it as ‘…an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato. There’s more of gravy than of grave…”‘

Dr. Ross L. Riggs – True North Ministry

As the Christmas season begins ts slip int the realm of ‘Christmas Past’, I sit by the warmth of a wood fire. I’m wearing my favorite slippers, an over-sized knit sweater, covered with a new blanket in support of the 1-325th Airborne Infantry Regiment Red Falcons to which my son is attached, and I’m  in my extra comfortable leather swivel, rocker recliner that is worn-in exactly in all the right places to make ‘Dad’s Chair’ the icon of the family living room. As a kid I never quite understood why there was a ‘Dad’s Chair’ that, whenever he was home, if you were in it and he headed your way; no comment, no explanation, no inquiry, – you just got up and gave hm his chair. Certainly it was, for us, a matter of respect for our father, (also, in part, a desire to make it to our next birthday, but mostly respect). Now I know. If your home is your castle, you might have other ‘thrones’ but there is only one from which the anointed head of the family, the patriarch of the clan reigned and issued from this place a thousand, “Go ask your mother” rulings. But I digress. The spirit of the season for me has always included the reading of Luke chapter 2 which we read at least once or twice through out our time together with a strong emphasis on the birth of our Savior. He came to face the cross and teach us how to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and might and to love each other even as we love ourselves.

When it comes to Christmas movies, in a close tie with each other for their own ranking on my Christmas list are two classics, White Christmas with Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye is a must see. Then, there are several different versions of my next favorite, including the 1939 classic, A Christmas Carol  with the infamous Scrooge. Many stars have taken on that role, even Patrick Stewart who also played Jean Luc Picard in Star Trek and King Richard in History of the World Part II – a cameo role but still played so well, (if an English King Richard can have an accent that is a cross between Scottish, Irish and East-side Chicago.) Scrooge was also once played so very well by a super star in his own right, Mr. Magoo. In all of the movie, the part that, as a child, perhaps was most terrifying and leading to  nightmares, (encouraged by my two older brothers) was the transformation of Scrooge’s door knocker to the face of Jacob Marley. This was spookier to me than even the pointing bony finger of the Ghost of  Jacob Marley - The Christmas Carol

 Christmas Yet to Come driving Scrooge to see his own name engraved into the headstone. That image, slowly taking shape into that door knocker and then its mournful plea which, even after seeing and speaking with his former partner Jacob Marley wrapped in the chains that he forged in this life; Scrooge dismisses it as “ …an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato. There’s more of gravy than of grave…”¹

The narrator shares with us at the end that Scrooge “…knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.” ²

Now that Christmas 2013 is, as the sports announcers say, in the record book; how do we propose to keep Christmas well until it shows itself anew in the coming year or until Christ has come to make manifest His kingdom  in His 1,000 year reign from Jerusalem? (I wonder how Christmas might be celebrated then?) There is something special about the heart of innocence that lends itself to grasping hold of the true meaning of Christmas. This was our first year with six grandchildren, Emelia Rose joined us for the first time this year. It was watching the grandchildren at Christmas and then the statements of Aaron and Allyson that brought me to the ‘ah-ha’ moment where my brain tells the rest of me that I have just heard something incredible!

I know that folks tire of grandparents bragging on their grandchildren and I don’t intend to tell you that my amazing, incredible, and practically preferable in all ways grandchildren, numbers 1-6, (since I cannot keep their names straight, I’m planning on issuing them numbers) are amazing, incredible or practically preferable in all ways. However, it was the heartfelt love and their genuine desire to put someone above themselves is what so drastically caught my attention.

My wife and I had spent Christmas Eve night at Dave’s and Suzanne’s home and when Christmas morning came it was a time of great anticipation and for the grandkids, a release of every pent-up wonder that is so magical with kids at Christmas. As I sat watching the first moments of the scene unfold, Aaron, my oldest grandchild who is 7 came bolting toward me with a most excited voice!  “Papaw, Papaw, I got my wish! I got my wish!” Thinking some prize toy had been found under the tree, I asked him what it was. He replied with as much excitement as I have seen any child at Christmas, “Santa brought my dad the back massager for his chair that I asked for; because my dad’s back hurts him a lot!” You could have soaked up my heart with a sponge because it melted right there on the spot. But my lesson was not yet complete from the Spirit of Christmas Present!

As I recovered from my first lesson, I watched as an equally excited Allyson went straight for her Mom to exclaim, “He did it! Santa came into my room and got it!” I needed to know the answer on this one!  Suzanne explained that Allyson had a favorite stuffed animal, a pink ‘Nemo’ fish. It apparently had a small spot of  ink on it and Allyson had written a note to Santa to ask him to please take the fish with him back to his workshop and ‘fix’ it… are you ready, so that Santa could then give that fish to a small child who really needs it!

Did I mention that Aaron and Allyson are 7 and 6 years old? Yes, at times they pick on each other as siblings often do. I can remember admonishing my children when they were youngsters and fighting between themselves to “Pretend you love each other!” So there are plenty of normal events with Aaron and Allyson but, if ever there was a set of shining examples as to how to Keep Christmas wellI believe that it is with carrying just these types of attitudes all the year. Some of us need to know how  to get such an attitude of love in the first place. I will tell you that it does not come naturally. It is, however, a gift. At this Christmas season and throughout the year, you can find the answers you seek in God’s Word. If you  don’t know who to ask; drop us a note and we will be glad to help. You can find us at

May the New Year find you grateful for the year that has passed, anticipating the year that is ahead and knowing that through every day, God is holding you in His hands, knowing the end from the beginning and every day in between. And as Tiny Tim was known to say, “God bless us, every one!”³

¹http://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/3097440-a-christmascarol

²http://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/3097440-a-christmascarol

³http://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/3097440-a-christmascarol

A True Patriot

“…a person who claims to love America and support America but fled to Canada in the 1960’s does not qualify as a patriot. I can agree with that. Whether you do or not matters little here because, quite frankly, I’m the author. You can write your own blog.”

In tribute to all those whose full measure of devotion was required

11 September 2013  Patriots’ Day in the U.S.A.      

Dr. Ross L. Riggs

All across the nation today there will be blogs written, such as this one, remembering 9-11 and calling for Americans to stand tall against those who would declare themselves an enemy of this great Republic. Like many, I found it disheartening how soon after 9-11 the flags stopped flying from almost every porch in America and how soon the echoes of those in prayer for our country and its people, its soldiers, seemed to fade.

Did you know that a person can be a patriot when he or she stands strong on behalf of their country and that they can also be a patriot when they stand strong against their government? Allow me to quote from a most hallowed source, Dictionary.Com.

dictionary

1. a person who loves, supports, and defends his or her country and its interests with devotion.

2. a person who regards himself or herself as a defender, especially of individual rights, against presumed interference by the federal government.   (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/patriot?db=dictionary)

 

A person who loves and supports and defends both the country and its interests with devotion is a patriot. Look carefully at that sentence because it speaks volumes. The article ‘or’ is only in one place in that sentence, between his and her, nowhere else. It is not a person who loves or supports his or her country. It is not a person who loves and supports just his or her country but the country and its interests. I find that interesting for a couple of reasons, not the least of which is a question that comes to my mind. Who determines a country’s interests? For example, are America’s interests inclusive of strong traditional marriage or the ‘I can marry anyone I love’ type of marriage? Who determines what America’s interests are? I’m not going to argue that here; it is just a question that came to mind. Who gets to make those choices?

 

So, back to the first definition: the patriot loves, supports and defends (all three) that would mean that a person who claims to love America and support America but fled to Canada in the 1960’s does not qualify as a patriot. I can agree with that. Whether you do or not matters little here because, quite frankly, I’m the author. You can write your own blog. But notice there is yet another qualifier in that first definition… “with devotion.” What does that mean, exactly? Someone once explained to me that a hen is devoted to giving us something of her so we can have a healthy breakfast. A pig, on the other hand, is committed to it. That may seem like semantics, unless of course, you are the pig.

 

Dictionary.Com informs us that devotion is “profound dedication; consecration” and even “earnest attachment to a cause or person, etc.” What that means is that we all know what ‘devotion’ is; we just cannot explain it without using other modifiers that are also undefinable; but somehow we just know devotion when we see it.

 

The second definition of ‘patriot’ is “a person who regards himself as a defender, especially of individual rights against presumed interference by the federal government.” Here is where I think the article “OR” can go…  You can be a patriot devoted to your country OR you can regard YOURSELF as a defender, sticking up for the individual, which in this case probably would also be YOURSELF, against the big bad federal government. For some reason, I think perhaps that Dictionary.Com understands the distinction between a Patriot and a patriot. One flies the American flag, if not every day, at least on all holidays; and in the meantime if it is stored, it is stored properly. The patriot is probably running around with cardboard license plates because he doesn’t have to do what the government says! He’s an amurican! – but only in an individual sort of way.

 

A True Patriot is regarded by others, who know him or her, as a Patriot. Most true patriots probably think very seldom of themselves. They are usually looking out for their families, their neighbors, their co-workers, the sick, the elderly, the infirm, and the orphaned. They are the ones out for a walk and just out of habit, reach down and pick up that piece of litter someone else threw and they carry it until they find the right place to drop it. The true patriot not only makes it to the voting polls each time but maybe volunteers there or calls someone they know who might need a ride to get to the polls.

 

A true patriot stands, if he is able, when the flag passes. He or she has a hand over their heart during the anthem at a ball game, not ordering a hot dog. He or she probably will shed a tear when they see a wounded vet and they may just haul off and punch some punk that belittles that vet in some way. I know a patriot, a true one. Actually, I know several but the one I’m thinking of never had a chance to serve in the military, although he would have liked to. He gets really steamed when he sees anyone act in a demeaning way toward the symbols of our nation.

 

Dictionary.Com actually has a third definition of a patriot. It does begin with a capital ‘P’. It has a range of 37 miles and carries a 200 pound warhead. On this Patriots’ Day I seek to honor all those who have given their full measure of devotion to our great country. America is exceptional and I thank God for each of you and your families. I wish for you this holiday that you will find something about our country that makes you smile. I have another wish as well. I would like all of the enemies of our beloved United States of America to have an opportunity to meet a true patriot, whether it is one whose heart proudly beats for America or one that travels up to 37 miles to release a 200 pound warhead!

 

May God bless America and may America bless God!