Editorial Archive: Christian ethic lives

Monday, December 25, 2017

(The following editorial was originally published in the Thursday, Dec. 24, 1981, edition of the Concord Monitor.)

Tomorrow is the anniversary of the birth of a way of life. It is fraught with symbolism and embodied in the spirit of a single human being who dedicated His short life to a set of principles that, to this day, allow people to live together more amicably.

We call it the Christian ethic, which had its beginnings nearly 2,000 years ago in a barn in Bethlehem, which now is Israel. The birth of the Christ child ignited a movement that still dominates the American culture.

We pay homage to those beginnings tomorrow with a national holiday and the observance of a series of traditions that symbolize the impact of the Christian ethic on our daily lives.

We exchange gifts, sing and play Christmas carols that glorify a new beginning, decorate our homes more than at any other time of year, adopt a new spirit of friendliness, hold family reunions, dispel animosities and concentrate on bringing pleasure to others.

These are only the short-term manifestations of how Christianity dominates our lives. It also is the foundation for our standards of right and wrong. Our laws at every level are sprinkled liberally with expressions of the Christian ethic. Many of the sacred rights we enjoy are codified from Christian beliefs.

These are embedded so deeply in our culture that they remain constant while all else changes. People’s values change with each generation. Lifestyles are altered with time. New beliefs emerge. But the tenets of Christianity – compassion, non-violence, forgiveness and love, to cite a few – still are the driving force in our society. We are affronted when they are not observed.

The importance of Christmas in our lives is demonstrated by remembrance of Christmases past. Members of an older generation recall where they were when the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred, what they were doing when they heard of President Kennedy’s assassination, and their reactions to other momentous events in contemporary history.

In the same category with these recollections are memories of previous Christmases, particularly from childhood or at times of national crisis, as during war. Images of Christmas trees, jolly faces, notable church services and warm associations remain etched on the mind.

Because Christmas is the celebration of a new life, it carries with it a spirit of optimism and renewed hope. The emphasis, at this time of year, is on shared rejoicing. It also is a period of reassessment and of introspection, to evaluate how we are living up to the principles to which the season is devoted.

Inevitably we find disturbing signs. There’s an upsurge of hatred, and we vow to counter it with kindness. We note our government leaning to disdain for the plight of the poor and enhancement of the rich, and it is disquieting because it runs against the grain of the Christian ethic.

At the same time, we find and enormous body of compassionate people who work selflessly to bring joy to others, who seek out those that need help and then provide it to them. They get little recognition for it, except the glow of goodness.

It nevertheless is noteworthy that so powerful is the Christian ethic that consideration for others is what society expects of itself. Overt selfishness still is considered a departure from the norm, and so it shocks when it’s exposed.

That means thoughtfulness still is a standard to which most of us adhere. And it epitomizes the Christian ethic. Our capacity for indignation at violations of our guiding principles and our willingness to labor in furtherance of our ethical convictions are measures of our culture’s vitality.

The Monitor wishes for all a renewal of faith, freedom from deprivation and a deluge of joy which this unique season has the capacity to bring.