Americans should treasure the Christmas story they say they believe

Richard Nelson of Cadiz is executive director of the Commonwealth Policy Center.
Richard Nelson of Cadiz is executive director of the Commonwealth Policy Center.

The Pew Research Center recently reported that nearly three-quarters of Americans are OK with religious displays on public property.

Apparently, America still has room at the inn, or at least the public square, for baby Jesus and a nativity scene.

Only 20 percent say that such displays should never be permitted. Must be Grinches.

Pew also found that most Americans believe in the literal Biblical story of the virgin birth, the magi and angels' announcement to the shepherds. Some 65 percent of American adults believe the Christmas story is true.

Those are interesting numbers in light of the trend toward a secularization that finds some sensitive souls wince at the mere mention of "Merry Christmas."

We've had our share of political correctness in the Bluegrass. Just two years into his first term, Gov. Steve Beshear discovered how strong Kentuckians felt about Christmas when he dubbed what was known as the state Christmas tree, a "holiday tree."

Bah Humbug, Kentuckians replied.

And the governor retracted the verbiage as quickly as a defective toy is pulled from shelves.

The battle over Christmas displays and terminology pales in comparison to the inordinate amount of evil that seems to rear its ugly head this time of year.

Taliban terrorists recently attacked a Pakistani school and killed 145. Most were 12- to 15-year-old students. It was the Sandy Hook massacre times seven, and reopened the wound of Newtown, Conn., parents still struggling with their grief.

More horrible tragedies: Two New York City police officers gunned down; 16-hour hostage standoff in Sydney leaves two dead; Ex-marine kills six family members in Philly suburb.

Such news of violence and death starkly contrasts with the words of the angel who brought good news to the shepherds — news that was supposed to bring great joy to all the people.

So where's the joy in the midst of such pain and evil?

We forget that part of the Christmas story is that Israel was occupied by an oppressive tyrant. That a maniac-for-a-king named Herod slaughtered all the Jewish boys two years and younger because he feared one would grow up to take his place.

Christ confronted injustice, dispelled darkness and delivered us from evil by his first coming. In return, mankind treated him like an unwanted present and perpetrated one of the greatest evils by crucifying its savior. We'd rather insulate ourselves from such thoughts, past and present, yet if we are honest we cannot.

The manager of the Sydney café could not insulate himself when a terrorist threatened several others including a pregnant friend. Tori Johnson tried to wrestle the gun away but ended up losing his own life.

The Christmas story strikes some similar chords. A pregnant and vulnerable Mary gave of herself in order to give birth to a son who would deliver us from chains of sin and evil. It's a story of God's greatest gift to us.

May we treasure that good news today — news of the Christmas story that most Americans say they believe.