“So, it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.’" – Luke 2:15
Congress avoided a shutdown of the government Thursday night by passing another short-term spending bill that will keep the federal government operating until January 19. And now, most are looking at the federal city in their rearview mirrors as they head home from Christmas. As a result, Washington is beginning to quiet down, and we too turn our attention to those cherished values and ideals that we advocate for every day here in Washington: faith, family, and freedom.
The speed with which this year has passed has been amazing, and as we approach the celebration of the birth of our Savior, there is so much to be thankful for this Christmas. While there is irrefutable evidence stretching from Hollywood to Capitol Hill that American is in great need of a spiritual awakening – an awakening that would return us to the biblical truths at the core of our nation’s founding – there is hope. The government-driven hostility to religious expression is beginning to cease, and the door has been opened to a renewed understanding and application of our first freedom – the freedom of religion, as intended by our Founders.
As I said Thursday night on Fox News, when President Trump proclaimed, "We’re saying Merry Christmas again!” at this year’s Values Voter Summit, the people in attendance knew exactly what he was saying. He wasn’t talking about attacks on Santa Claus – he was talking about the assault on religious expression in our public life.
This administration is attempting to live up to this pledge in both word and deed. The executive order issued in May ordering federal agencies to “vigorously enforce federal law’s robust protections for religious freedom” is having an effect. The president is also leading by example as seen this week when he called upon Housing and Urban Development secretary, Dr. Ben Carson, to pray at the cabinet meeting. (And if anyone questions the validity of the war on faith, just look at how the media reacted to the prayer. MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell called it “unusual” and “shocking.”)
The door is opening again to the public display and affirmation of our Christian faith. We have to have the courage to walk through the door and seize this moment; praying, hoping and working for the revival America so desperately needs.
Thursday, I had my friend Dr. Naim Khoury, pastor of First Baptist Church of Bethlehem on our “Washington Watch” radio program. Since meeting Dr. Khoury at his church in Bethlehem, I’ve had him on our radio program every Christmas. (It’s hard to top an interview with a Baptist preacher in the Little Town of Bethlehem at Christmas time.) Dr. Khoury spoke of the increased tension in the region and the continued hostility from the Palestinian Authority, which has jurisdiction over Bethlehem. Here at home, the hostility is mostly contained to mocking and maligning. In the Middle East, it’s bombs and bullets. (Dr. Khoury’s church has been bombed over a dozen times, and he’s personally been shot three times.) When I asked him how we could pray for him and the other Christians who are in the extreme minority there and in other parts of the Middle East, he responded by asking that we pray for their safety in these dangerous times, but also that they would have the strength to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.
As we celebrate the miracle that took place in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago, join me in praying for the safety and strength of Dr. Khoury and our brothers and sisters in the Middle East. But let us also pray that for ourselves – that we would have the strength, the courage, and the boldness to share the remarkable story of God’s grace delivered in a manager and then displayed upon a cross.
Merry Christmas from all of us here at Family Research Council.