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Missouri Family E-News

December 20, 2011

Christmas Joy or Christmas Cheer?



This is that time of year when Christmas cheer is celebrated, peace on earth is proclaimed, and merry hearts abound. How we all wish that these sentiments of Christmas "joy" would last all year long.


Yet we know in our hearts that lasting joy can't be purchased through human commodities or acquired through human relationships.  Lasting joy can only be obtained and maintained through active and continuing fellowship with the Holy Spirit in our daily lives.


The Scriptures themselves tell us that Jesus Christ during his time on earth was "full of joy through the Holy Spirit." (Lk 10:21)   He was annointed with the oil of joy because he loved righteousness and hated wickedness.  (Heb 1: 8-9)  


Jesus advised us to obey His commands and remain in His love, just as He had obeyed His Father's commands and remained in His love.  Jesus said that he had a reason for this advice: "so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete." (Jn 15 9-11)


We all know how difficult it is to feel continuing gladness in the midst of life's harsh demands and a culture increasingly hostile to the Christian faith.  It seems like there are so many struggles and episodes in life that sap our joy in large measure.


Yet the apostle Paul challenges us to rejoice at all times despite our troubles.  He gives some practical instructions on how to do it--by focusing on those things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable.  If we think about those kinds of things, God will guard our hearts and minds with His Peace.  (Phil 4:4-9)


At times during the year we have shared with you news in the Jeff City Update about things that are neither noble or true, and most definitely not excellent or praiseworthy.  We do so to keep you informed about  issues of concern to the Christian community so you can pray and take other appropriate action.   


But we do not want your mind to be mired in the woes of our earthly Kingdom or the wiles of our earthly rulers.  We want you to remain fixed on the Good News of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the eternal Kingdom he governs with grace and truth.   


That is the same goal we have in working with our legislators in Jefferson City.  While they have major responsibility in the temporal realm to discharge their duties faithfully, we want to keep their central focus on the spiritual realm where joy finds no deficit, hope is not a slogan, and promises are always kept.   

Please be praying for our state lawmakers and their families as our state representatives and state senators prepare to return to Jefferson City for another legislative session. 


Here at the Missouri Family Policy Council we pray that you and your family will know the true Joy of the Lord this Christmas season and throughout the year 2012.  We pray that your joy will be complete, and that the Lord of Peace Himself will grant you peace at all times and in every way. (2 Th 16)


Merry Christmas from the Missouri Family Policy Council, and may you be blessed at all times and in every way during the New Year!                     


Texas Town Rallies Around Christmas Nativity Scene   


The phrase "Don't Mess with Texas" took on fresh significance over the weekend as thousands rallied in a small Texas town to defend the community's nativity display.  Over 5000 residents gathered in Athens, Texas on Saturday to show their support for the display,  which is erected each year on the county courthouse lawn by a nonprofit group called Keep Athens Beautiful.


Officials of Henderson County, located southeast of Dallas, had received a letter from the Freedom from Religion Foundation threatening to sue them if they did not take down the nativity scene.  The atheist group, headquartered in Wisconsin, had argued that the display of the birth of Jesus Christ is an unconstitutional government establishment of religion. 


The Athens holiday display includes numerous images of Santa Claus, elves, reindeer, snowmen, trumpeters, and dwarfs, in addition to the Christmas creche.  By including several secular elements along with the religious themes, the display clearly meets standards established by the U.S. Supreme Court over the years for Christmas holiday displays.

County Judge Richard Sanders says the display isn't going anywhere.  "We've got an array of decorations and feel that we are in compliance with federal law."  County Commissioner Joe Hall went even further.  "We get a letter saying you better do this or we're going to do that.  You come to my house looking for a fight--you're gonna get one...The nativity scene will come down after Christmas, or when hell freezes over."

The Freedom from Religion group is also demanding that a banner be hung on the courthouse lawn that reads as follows:  "At this season of the Winter Solstice, let reason prevail.  There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell.  There is only our natural world.  Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds."

The Saturday rally in downtown Athens, organized by area pastors, included Christmas carols, patriotic music, speeches, and prayers.  It also included a canned food drive and community social service resources. One of the leaders, Pastor Nathan Lorick of the First Baptist Church in Malakoff, said,   "It is time for Christians in America to stand up, show up and speak up.  It is time to lead America back to the Biblical and Christian values and morals that have made our nation so great since its birth."

"This [rally] is a statement to the nation that Christians are tired of the persecution and suppression," Lorick added.  "I do hope that people across the nation will take note and know that they too can stand up and speak up.  We want all to know that we are ready to contend for the the faith."

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbot offered immediate support to Henderson County officials, pledging to defend them against any lawsuit.  "Our message to the atheists is don't mess with Texas and our nativity scenes.  This atheist group is just trying to bully local government bodies.  The people of Henderson County need to know this state has a lawyer who has their back...and has the firepower to go toe-to-toe with these outside organizations."

Pastor Mark Fulks of Chandler First Assembly of God expressed exasperation with the controversy.  "Is the manger scene really that offensive?  Our country was founded on freedom of religion and freedom of speech.  I have come to realize that some feel freedom of speech and expression are only good for those who are non-Christians.  We're not trying to push Christianity down anyone's throat.  We just want to celebrate the birth of the Savior."

Fulks believes the actions of the atheist group will continue to backfire.  "The Freedom from Religion Foundation has put the good news of Jesus Christ on the front page.  They are inadvertently bringing people closer to the Gospel message by trying to snuff it out.  If they really care about bettering mankind, they would spend their money on feeding hungry children or buying coats for kids."

Rock Hill Baptist Church Pastor Robert Welch said of the rally:  "Our goal was to let our voices be heard in unison proclaiming the centrality of Christ in Christmas.  Christmas is not just a day off from work, a time to visit family, or an indulgence in gross materialism...This rally was an opportunity for Christians in Henderson County to...boldly profess that Jesus Christ is the reason we celebrate Christmas." 


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