Within living memory, our federal government operated more or less within the bounds our founders imagined. There had been steady government creep since at least the First World War, but the checks and balances the framers built into the very clockwork of government operations were enough to keep the D.C. elites — always so thirsty for more power, always so certain that their own wisdom should override that of the individual in his state and home — within some sort of limits.
In those nearly forgotten days, you could pretty much read the paper, shake your head at the gormless stupidity of the elite, and go about your business with some certainty that, as idiotic as these self-aggrandizing clowns were, they couldn’t do too much damage.
I suspect that changed with Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that arbitrarily stripped the states of the power to defend their children from legal extermination. For many of us, that marked the moment when government creep became tidal arrogance, a matter of life and death.
Today, even under Republican administrations, it takes a mighty effort of popular will to keep the Democrat-leaning Deep State, buoyed and protected by the big corporations that run the news and social media, from seizing control over every aspect of our lives. A Chicago machine pol like Barack Obama reaches the White House and feels empowered to issue fiats over who can use bathrooms in an elementary school in some far-off neighborhood he knows nothing about. A sanctimonious and overreaching FBI Director like James Comey can decide it’s up to him to protect a Democrat candidate from rightful prosecution while unleashing holy hell on the Republican. And all the while, mighty corporations like Comcast and Twitter, Disney-ABC and Google, not only defend such un-American misuses of power but do their best to marginalize and silence those who speak out against them.
So now, it sometimes feels as if the fight to remain free must occupy our minds constantly and, as a result, politics consumes us. Even when we talk about Christmas, we tend to talk about it in political terms. The War on Christmas. Attempts to chase Christianity out of the schools and the public square. Attempts from Hollywood and the news media to slander Christians and Christian doctrine as hateful and oppressive. Elite attempts to create a popular narrative of “enlightened” disdain for spiritual truth.
The other day I went to church to hear “Lessons and Carols,” the loveliest jewel in the liturgy of the Episcopal Church. The service intersperses Christmas carols with Bible readings prophesying and then describing the birth of the savior on earth. For ninety minutes or so, I was swept out of myself, out of the political world, out of the world entirely, into the realm of what truly matters, all that truly matters. In the story of God’s sacrificial love and forgiveness, I was reminded once again that this temporary life may be lived into the logic of eternity, and that all the physical glitches that tie us to the workings of the world — our judgmentalism and anger and envy and littleness — can be handed over to our God to make room for joy.
Politics — even unto the fall of the republic — is nothing compared to the song of salvation the angels sing from forever to forever.
I think the carol that brought this home to me more than any other was “Jesus Christ, the Apple Tree,” one of my favorites. “For happiness I long have sought,” the wise lyrics run, “And pleasure dearly I have bought. I missed of all, but now I see tis found in Christ the apple tree.”
I would say that this has sometimes been the story of my life, but whose story hasn’t it been sometimes? Still, as I heard the words again, every worry fell away from me, and I had one of those sweet intimations of longed-for paradise.
That taste of joy is always available to us because of the birth of Christ, the incarnation of God that opened a door out of history, out of politics, and out of the self, into the perfection of reality, the kingdom of heaven that is within us and among us even now.
I hope you and I can walk through that door this Christmas and every day after, and by doing so, remember who we are: beloved children of God who were bought with a price and are now therefore — no matter what the governments of the world may do — free men and women forever.