Published April 22, 2011
To those of you who shy away from any religious "stuff" appearing in an op-ed or in political discourse, in general, I say, "bah, humbug." Some definers say that religion only is another word for "worldview," so please don't get freaked out by the religious overtones suggested by the title of my piece.
Wait a minute, on second thought, be afraid. Be very afraid (well, not really, but you know what I mean).
This is just my attempt to set the record straight. There will be no political overtones. There will only be one papa's version of the Christmas/Easter story, and what it means to one who has been greatly blessed, highly favored, imperfect but forgiven child of God, this Christian also know as Larry Gatlin.
On Christmas morning last year I was awakened by the sound of a slamming door, the patter of little feet, and the excited voices of 2 little "stinkers" Parker and Campbell, my 2 "luscious" granddaughters. "Papa, what are you doing still in bed? Get up and let's start opening these Christmas presents!"
So, Papa got out of bed and did exactly that.
But before all of the slashing and ripping of red and green paper, and the shouting and shrieking commenced, Papa asked all assembled to hold hands for a Christmas prayer.
Papa said the prayer and then took a few minutes to tell the old old story" of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, Judea.
Parker and Campbell listened as patiently as is possible under the circumstances... partly because their "Ishy", (also known as their grandmother, my wife Janis) was looking on with a very seldom used stern countenance...and partly because Papa is a great storyteller (of course)!
I told them of the wise men, the shepherds, the star, the innkeeper...the whole shabang. Well, at least all that I could tell a 10-and 5-year-old.
After Papa's spellbinding account of the birth of Jesus, the slashing and ripping and screams of excitement began in earnest.
Papa just sat back in his recliner and took in the whole wonderful scene.
And now, here we are in April just before Easter. At this very moment, I am searching my heart and soul for guidance...guidance from God Almighty as to the right time and right way to tell them what the true reason for Christmas really is.
When will my 2 little "stinkers", the very lights of my life, be old enough and mature enough to be told about the baby Jesus growing up into manhood, preaching and teaching in the temple like no other had ever preached or taught before, of healing the blind, the deaf, and the lame, of walking on water, feeding 5,000 with only a few loaves of bread and a few fishes, causing nets to break with an abundance of fish where there had been no fish before, of casting out demons, curing leprosy, raising the dead from the grave, and living a perfect, sinless life... only to be betrayed, wrongfully judged, wrongfully condemned, whipped, scourged, and finally nailed to a wooden cross...crucified between 2 thieves who, unlike the man on the middle cross, deserved the crosses upon which they were nailed.
Is Papa a good enough storyteller to convince them to believe, like Papa does, that after a gruesome, vicious, horrifying death on Friday, at the hands of Roman soldiers, and a burial in a borrowed tomb, there was a miraculous, glorious resurrection on Sunday?
Can Papa convince them to believe that all of these events took place, just as Papa said they did?
Is Papa a good enough storyteller to, again, convince them to believe that the one who arose from the dead, will return some day and bring peace to the Earth?
I do not know when or where I will tell the very lights of my life this incredible story and I do not know whether or not they will buy their Papa's story. But I do know that Papa believes it, and will joyfully tell it over and over again to anyone who wants to hear it.
At this very moment, the dogs of war are raging...precious blood is being spilled...the innocent and the guilty alike are being killed and horribly maimed, in large part, to try settle old scores, and to once and for all, see whose GOD is the REAL GOD.
These "dogs of war" have been unleashed within a 100 mile radius of where the miraculous story of Jesus took place. Taking all of this into account, could there be a better moment for the return of the Prince of Peace? Could there be an any more perfect time to reflect on the truemeaning of, and the true reason for Christmas?
Without Easter, Christmas is just another "nice" Bible story. Without the death, burial, and resurrection, Christmas is pretty much about my "stinkers" opening presents wrapped in pretty paper. (Thanks, Willie Nelson.)
Well, to this Papa, the Easter story (and the Christmas story) is about another Papa, the BIG PAPA, loving mankind enough to allow love itself, in the form of a baby, then a man, then a redeemer, to gloriously finish the story that Christmas began.
Again, I proclaim that the reason for Christmas is Easter. HALLELUJAH!!
P.S. As I reflect on the story above, I realize that I made one big mistake. The "stinkers" I mentioned are, in fact, the "lights of my life," but the Prince of Peace, the Risen Christ, is the very light of my life. Hallelujah and Amen!!
Larry Gatlin is a songwriter/musician and a frequent contributor to Fox News Opinion.