A Tale of Two Christmas Trees

There's a big difference between someone whose faith is integral to who they are, and those who put on a show for the public.

Such is the tale of two Christmas trees this season: Speaker Boehner and his heartfelt response to what the season means to him, and Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee who gave about 30 minutes notice for the annual lighting of the state Christmas holiday tree:

Chafee's office announced at 11:31 a.m. on Thursday that the governor would host a lighting of the tree at noon. Several days' notice typically is given for such events.

Chafee said before flipping the switch at the sparsely attended ceremony that he gave short notice this year because last year the event turned into a "disrespectful gathering."

Protesters who oppose Chafee's use of the term "holiday tree," rather than "Christmas tree," last year crashed the ceremony and interrupted a children's chorus with their own rendition of "O Christmas Tree."

What makes this exposition all the more galling is the fact that Chafee -- rather than just tossing aside the false sentiments and telling people outright that he doesn't like Christmas -- was his exposition on the idea of a "holiday tree" and what it really means... for Chafee, anyhow...

"When the holiday season approached, they said what do you want to do in the State House. My instructions were very simple: Do whatever the previous governor did. No more, no less. Just do what they did. And that is what we did.

"And the previous governor called it a holiday's tree," said Chafee. "That was the tradition.

...but with a little more pressure, CNS was able to get Chafee to give a bit more of a heartfelt opinion on his newfangled holiday tree:

“Now, don’t forget--I have made this point before--that these changes that have occurred are always controversial,” Chafee said.

“And I remember, in elementary school, everybody had to stand up and say the Lord’s Prayer, which was a religious prayer, obviously," said Chafee. "And that was changed in the 60s—in 1962, the Supreme Court ruled that you can’t make everybody stand up and say a prayer if they are not of that religion.

“That was controversial,the changing of the Lord’s Prayer in public schools," said Chafee.

“So, times change,” he said. “And there are many religions in Rhode Island. And everybody pays for the State House. It’s just a change in how people view public buildings and what occurs in them.

Ah... refreshing honesty.  Even if no one in RhodeIslandseems to recall any previous governor demoting the state Christmas tree to a mere lowercase-h holiday tree:

But Rhode Island State Rep. Doreen Costa, who has called Chafee “Governor Grinch,” told CNSNews.com that she doesn’t remember Chafee’s predecessor, Gov. Carcieri, calling it a “holiday tree”--nor does she recall Carcieri’s predecessor, Gov. Almond, calling the tree a "holiday tree."

“Gov. Chafee said Gov. Carcieri called it a ‘holiday tree.’ Personally, I don’t remember that,” Costa said.

But Carcieri also referred to it as a “Christmas tree,” she said.

“There was no secret what Gov. Carcieri called it. It was not a secret,” Costa said.

Of course, what Chafee was really trying to avoid was further controversy over his pet holiday tree, a recasting that caused him serious grief last year when he unveiled his holiday tree to the shock and scorn of virtually every reasonable citizen ofRhode Islandand outsiders paying attention to Chafee's all-consuming effort to demote Christmas.

So while Governor Grinch was stealing Christmas in Rhode Island, Speaker John Boehner in Washington delivered a very different sentiment lighting the "People's Tree" back in Washington:

“Thank you to everyone involved in this event.  This spruce has traveled many miles to reach this Great Dome, itself a radiant beacon of God's blessings.  At Christmastime, its splendor calls to mind the star of Bethlehem and the chants of the angels announcing a humble birth in a manger.

“The birth of Christ fulfilled a prophecy of salvation, giving a weary world cause to rejoice.  In that spirit, we will bring light to the tree that flourishes as a symbol of everlasting life.  And in turn, this tree will bring light to us, opening our hearts a little more to the needs of our neighbors and the covenants we have made with one another.  For the celebration of Christmas is not merely the recitation of a story that occurred once upon a time.  The real mystery is having that story reborn in our souls, just as the shepherds were stirred by the angels singing, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace, goodwill toward men.’

“So with gratitude, I offer you this simple phrase, ‘God bless us, everyone,’ and from my family to yours, Merry Christmas.”

Confessions of faith in times such as these are difficult to do, especially for elected officials pressured to reflect the sentiments of a perceived whole rather than their personal convictions, character, and faith. 

That Christmas celebrates an event -- not a fairy tale -- where the logos became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14). 

That one verse in John cuts through all the noise and commercialism surrounding Christmas -- the Greek root for "word" being logos being related to reason and logic.  In this sense, John could not have been more prophetic to our times, because only through Christ does all the nonsense we surround ourselves with during the Christmas season -- the gifts, presents, scheduling and show -- have any purpose or logic.  

Without Christ as the reason for Christmas, none of it makes any sense.  Holidaytrees become trumpets for hypocrites, rather than outward signs of the logos and the unfathomable love that saved mankind.

Now that's Christmas.

Our Founding Fathers created a new concept of government, a republic, not a monarchy or a dictatorship in which every person has freedom.  President John Adams agreed with President George Washington, “This constitution was made only for a religious and moral people.  It is unfit for any other.”

 Benjamin Franklin said, “We have given you a republic, if you can keep it.”  What would be the cause of us not “keeping it?”

The Founders believed a republic is built on religion (meaning the Judeo-Christian ethic) because true religion would result in a virtuous people and government which would produce freedom for all.  Freedom can only be maintained when people live in a virtuous manner allowing others to live in freedom.  Governor Chafee is removing the strong foundation of our republic, which if widespread, would eventually lead to the downfall of freedom.

President Washington said in his Farewell Address, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and moral are indispensible supports.”  To remove the word Christmas from our social discourse is only symptomatic of not understanding the profound principles upon which our republic is based.