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  • Morning Bell: Our Christmas Wish - The Gift of Gratitude

    Gratitude, it’s been observed, is a hallmark conservative virtue.

    We prize the heritage passed down to us through the generations. We look beyond ourselves to the wisdom of the ages to shape our outlook and to the enduring principles of America’s founding to ground our decisions today.

    Gratitude for what we’ve received makes us respond by giving, especially at this season. This year, the season of gifts is particularly poignant, as Heritage research fellow Ryan Messmore writes in an op-ed this week:

    Christmastime is a season of gratitude.  Whether it’s because we reflect upon the birth of the Christ child or the blessings of the past year, the holiday often prompts a sense of appreciation and thankfulness as well as the tradition of gift-giving.

    And this year, the season of giving and receiving gifts comes in sharp contrast to a succession of months pervaded with a sense of entitlement.

    The politics of resentment has characterized much of 2011. It’s been fueled by an entitlement mentality that “threatens not only the spirit of Christmas but the very fabric of a just and prosperous society,” Messmore says.

    That’s because the entitlement mentality makes an ever-increasing list of claims that government must fulfill, from jobs to health care to freedom from college debt. This “government-owes-me” attitude abandons principles of personal responsibility and mutual responsibility through civil society, that is, through the relationships forged in family, congregation, and community.

    But the more Americans look to government to provide for our welfare, the more it weakens these civil society bonds. That’s bad news for good governance, and bad news for our welfare. As the data on Heritage’s FamilyFacts.org site shows, family and religious practice secure our individual and common good as no government program can do.

    Christmas is a season that calls us back to these permanent things. Its music and traditions appeal to us to restore our commitment to family and faith.

    Perhaps there’s no better example than the shared musical experience of Handel’s “Messiah,” which continues to draw our attention 270 years after it was written. Why do we continue to stop and listen after almost three centuries? As I wrote in an op-ed this week:

    Together, the music and subject of Handel’s “Messiah” reach the sublime status of great art that speaks to “what is permanent in the human soul,” as the 19th-century poet and cultural critic Matthew Arnold wrote. …

    Master artists and authors create a “unity and profoundness of moral impression,” Arnold wrote, “which constitutes the grandeur of their works, and which makes them immortal.”

    That kind of moral impression is grounded in the conviction that human nature persists, truth exists and life has meaning and purpose. Such courage of conviction has been waning for some time.

    Instead, relativism has crept into education and other cultural forums, undermining confidence in standards that transcend our own frame of reference. Among other negative results, this cheats young people of the gratitude that appropriately respects the wisdom of the past, the very gratitude that would inoculate against developing an entitlement mentality.

    As we seek to renew America, that makes the lessons of Christmas all the more important. Messmore sums up our Christmas wish:

    As we celebrate the holidays, let’s give thanks for–and diligently protect–our God-given rights.  But let’s also pay attention to the dynamics that play out with the giving and receiving of presents.

    This is a season for reflecting especially on gifts of grace–blessings to which we aren’t necessarily entitled.  May gratitude move us to give freely and generously to others in the New Year.

    - Jennifer Marshall is the Director of Domestic Policy Studies in the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society.

    Quick Hits:

    Posted in Culture [slideshow_deploy]

    14 Responses to Morning Bell: Our Christmas Wish - The Gift of Gratitude

    1. Max says:

      Jennifer has written and excellent piece that captures the essence of the season and the situation. Merry Christmas!

    2. B_squared says:

      Thank you for so eloquently conveying what my heart knew to be true, but was unable to express.
      Merry Christmas!

    3. WRB says:

      Amen, Jennifer. Your evaluation of the meaning of season and the need to continue and strengthen the principles of our founding fathers needs to be shared and stated by every person true to the principles of our founding fathers. We all must join together in 2012 to reestablish the American/Judea//Christian foundation of this great Country, "One Nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all".

    4. sdfultz says:

      The writer needs to recognize the demands of the people aren't for entitlements, it's for fairness!
      You guys sure know how to use key words, entitlements, Ha!
      I know lots of poor people and I have yet to hear any of them demanding more entitlement, they want a shot at the American dream. Period!
      Merry Christmas Heritage

      • Clearhead says:

        Perhaps you could define "fairness" for us, mr/miss/mrs sdfultz. Surely if you know so many "poor people" that are demanding "fairness" you mist know what it is. And I'll say this — "If you can define that term, then you are truly exceptional." Whatever "fairness" is, it's certainly not something to be demanded, as demanding fairness removes the very essence of the word. Fairness is something VOLUNTARILY PROVIDED by those involved, if you care to look at it from a secular point of view. Example: If you are my enemy do you consider it FAIR for me to wish you a Merry Christmas? Nevertheless, I WISH YOU — (friend or foe) — A MERRY CHRISTMAS !! (That's "fairness") And by the way — HAPPY NEW YEAR !! SEMPER FI !!

    5. Wayne Peterkin says:

      Outstanding article! Well said, Ms. Marshall!

    6. Gammy Sparkles says:

      Well said – Thanks to all of you for the hard work you do for us all!
      Gammy Sparkles

    7. Steven A. Sylwester says:

      Jennifer Marshall,

      Is there a hope? Is there a prayer?

      I have been asking myself these questions for several months now.

      In their book "The Sistine Secrets: Michelangelo's Forbidden Messages in the Heart of the Vatican," authors Benjamin Blech and Roy Doliner wrote on page 69 the following revelation:
      "… There was only one exception to this commonly held belief: the Jewish tradition. According to a mystical principle, God never presents us with a problem unless he has already created its solution within the problem itself. When Adam and Eve sin by eating the forbidden fruit, they are stricken with shame from their new awareness of their nudity. The Bible tells us that their immediate solution was to cover themselves with fig leaves. According to the Midrash, the Tree of Knowledge was a fig tree, since a compassionate God had provided a cure for the consequence of their sin within the self-same object that caused it. It is hard to imagine any Christian being aware of this, either in Michelangelo's era or even today. Only someone who had studied the Midrash could have known such a thing. Yet, sure enough, there in the panel of "Original Sin," Michelangelo's forbidden Tree of Knowledge is a fig tree."

      When I first read that passage a couple of years ago, it hit me like a lightning bolt; it transformed my thinking. Finding truth in a mystical principle can be like turning a light on in a very dark room.

      "And God said, Let there be light: and there was light." (Genesis 1:3)

      If you ponder according to these words: "God never presents us with a problem unless he has already created its solution within the problem itself," what will you discover? What solutions to our most perplexing problems are hidden in plain sight before our very eyes? What are we blind to because we have not yet asked the right question? Where is the light switch for this very dark room?

      I have come to think of people like Michelangelo and Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein as angelic beings of some sort — messengers from God. How else can you explain them? How can we mere mortals experience "the peace of God, which transcends all understanding (Philippians 4:7 NIV)," without first pondering the Mind of God for a long while on our bended knees? We can hope for God's grace, but we should be praying for God's mercy. And we should be repenting in every way we can.

      I truly believe God created all there is, seen and unseen. I also truly believe that God created the United States of America, and that the Glory of God is hidden in plain sight in the Declaration of Independence and in the U.S. Constitution for all who have eyes to see. Plain evidence of God's Almighty Presence in American history can be seen in the storm that saved Washington DC during the War of 1812: http://www.afweather.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123http://www.weatherbook.com/1814.htm http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Washington,_
      But ponder this as well: http://www.history.navy.mil/library/online/hurric

      We are now in very difficult times, so I recently took the mystical principle — "God never presents us with a problem unless he has already created its solution within the problem itself" — on a search through our nation's most sacred document: the U.S. Constitution. Did God create solutions for the problems we now face in 2011 when He inspired the writing of that sacred document in 1787? I hoped so. I expected so. But could my eyes see it?

      I found this: http://steven-a-sylwester.blogspot.com/2011/12/th

      Luke shared the following Christmas story in his Gospel (Luke 2:8-14 KJV):
      And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
      And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
      And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
      And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
      And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
      Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

      * * *

      Merry Christmas!
      May God bless the year 2012 and save us from ourselves. Amen

      Steven A. Sylwester

    8. Jerry Bratton says:

      Merry Christmas to all at Heritage and a wonderful new year

    9. Carl M says:

      Wouldn't entitlement be receiving something for nothing rather than being paid into for 45+ years?
      Wouldn't it be like maybe the subsidy paid to the oil companies? Between 2-3 billion per year for no reason except it's been done for——years? And from our tax dollars that the 1% don't want to contribute to. How about farm subsidies?
      When those are ended, then we can talk about other entitlements.

    10. Bobbie says:

      thanks be to God for truth and truth tellers, for honest and enduring people and strength to those who would rather be. God Bless Heritage and the Foundation!

    11. Frank says:

      That was beautifull in structure and content…would be good for every editorial in the country…I fear the ACLU and the courts have destroyed the morale strength required to maintian our former way of life…I am a survivor of the great depresion and a combat veteran of ww2

    12. Robert Quinn says:

      My Christmas wish is for the people in Washington stop there nosense and take care of the American people God bless america

    13. PADDY O says:

      GOD BLESS US EVERYONE! ( WE'RE GOING TO NEED IT )

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