“Believe in Christmas”
December OKWU Commencement
A few years ago when I started giving commencement addresses I quickly figured out a sure fire way to always get a rousing round of applause or perhaps even a standing ovation. It’s guaranteed. It’s simple. Be clear, be quick, and be done. The only good commencement speech is a short commencement speech J
So – My Graduation gift to you is a very brief address – I’ve timed it – It’s less than ten minutes J
Some of you if not most of you know I am very found of CS Lewis. So today as the context of my talk I’d like to share one more story from the Chronicles of Narnia. This is one that many of you already know. It is a scene from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which was made into a feature film a few years ago to much acclaim and promotional hype. It is the story of Father Christmas, Lucy, her siblings, and Mr. and Mrs. Beaver as they stand fearful and confused in the cold, frozen tundra of the White Witch’s kingdom.
Let me refresh your memory.
If you recall, the children entered the magic of Narnia through the portal of the professor’s wardrobe, and as they did, they found themselves in a winter wonderland of sorts. It is white and cold. The trees have been dusted with frost. The lamppost glows somberly in a windless forest, blanketed with snow. At first glance, this all seems beautiful -- but there is something missing. This land is nearly lifeless and the few creatures the children do encounter (the fauns, the beavers, etc.) seem fearful, suspicious and nearly paranoid. There is no joy.
By way of explanation, the beavers tell the children that Narnia is under the spell of an evil Witch. Everything is pale. Everything is cold. Every moment is governed by fear rather than hope. Every day is as if it is “always winter but never Christmas.” This is the dreadful description of life under the Witch’s rule. There is no hope to wish for and there is no peace to pursue. Belief has been lost. This is simply a land of doubt, despair and defeat.
But this isn’t the end of the story. You see, in the midst of Mr. Beaver’s description of the evil spell, the children hear sleigh bells ringing in the distance. At first, they are sure this is the sound of the Witch’s return, and they hide.
But it isn’t the Witch at all. No, the driver of the sleigh is a great, glad, giant of a man dressed all in red with a white beard flowing down over the breast of his ample robe. It is Father Christmas!
“I have broken through at last” he says. “She has kept me out for a long time, but her magic is weakening.”
Lucy shivers with excitement. “He” is here! And he not only brings presents but he also brings peace and joy. He not only brings hot tea with cream and sugar, but he also offers the comfort of love and the warmth of compassion. He brings music and he brings a message: “Aslan is on the move!” he cries. “A Merry Christmas!” You can believe again! “Long live the true King!”
Over 2,000 years ago the world was suffering through a cold dark winter much like that of Narnia. Civil unrest was rampant in the Middle East and the power of Western Civilization was crumbling under the weight of moral decadence. Rome wielded the sword. Israel picked up stones. Fear killed freedom. Terrorism defeated trust. Even in the midst of the calm of Pax Romana there seemed to be a cloud of impending doom.
Today, as you watch CNN or FOX or read today’s paper, you may at times feel the same chill in your bones. You may feel fearful. You may shiver as you try to shelter yourself from the freezing winds of nightly news. Egypt, Syria, Palestine: Always winter but never Christmas. Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea: Always winter but never Christmas. “Stimulus” spending and our National debt: Always winter and never Christmas. Nuclear proliferation, the threat of terrorism, Fiscal Cliffs and government corruption: Always winter but never Christmas.
But in the face of such cold winds, perhaps we would do well to remember the news of long ago when light shined on the hills of Bethlehem and a different Father Christmas arrived singing a new song. “Do not be afraid.” He declared in a booming and confident voice. “For behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy.” And on that night, winter began to melt away, and Christmas sprang alive in a stable under the stars and the human race was challenged to believe in Bethlehem.
As you graduate today, I want to challenge you to Believe….
Believe what Oklahoma Wesleyan University has taught you. Believe in its Mission. Believe in its Message.
Believe in the Bible -- That it is true. Not transient. That it is inspired. Not constructed. That it is accurate. Not relative. That it is not to be added to nor subtracted from. That it is to be hidden in your heart and proclaimed with your mouth. That it is given by inspiration and breathed by God himself. That it is the inerrant, infallible, and authoritative written word of God that guides us in all matters of faith, learning and living.
Believe in Practicing Wisdom -- Practice what you preach. Be men and women of integrity. Work out your faith with fear and trembling. Not as though you have already attained all this. If you love him, you will obey him. What good is it if you call him Lord and do not do what he says? Show me your faith without deeds and I will show you mine by what I do. Remember the words of Dietrich Bonheoffer: that only those who believe obey but only those who obey believe.
Believe in Truth -- the Logos -- the Tao -- the natural law -- the revelation of God. Understand that there are self-evident truths that no human being can deny. Believe that such truths are revealed by God not constructed by man, that they are objective and attainable, immutable and constant. Believe that truth gives salvation to the damned and freedom to the slave. Be energized by the unapologetic pursuit of truth. Wherever it leads, be confident in the words, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” Freedom: the antithesis of slavery. Slavery: the unavoidable outcome of lies -- Lies about who we are as people -- lies about what is right and what is wrong -- Lies about man and lies about God.
Believe in Christmas! It is Christ’s mass! Christ's Mass!! Not Buddha's mass. Not Mohammed's mass. Not Hare Krishna's mass. It's not Pelosi's, Bush's, yours or mine. It is Christ's mass!We can commercialize it, homogenize it, politicize it and compromise it but in the end the bottom line is this… The word means something! It means you can Believe in the Primacy of Jesus Christ and that he is the beginning and the end, the way the truth and the life, the great I AM, the word become flesh, Emanuel – God with us -- your savior and your king, your Lord and your God, the Lion of Judah and the Lamb of God, your redeemer, your guide, your peace, your joy, your comfort, your life, your light! Believe that he is risen and incarnate: the Son of God, the alpha and omega, the lens of all learning and the Lord of our daily lives.
“I have broken through at last,” cries Christmas. “She has kept me out for a long time but her magic is weakening. This is a time of love not hatred, giving not getting, goodness not greed. Believe!! Believe that light always diminishes darkness, warmth always melts what is cold, and the Son is always stronger than winter. Believe that Aslan is on the move. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord . . . He is the light of men. He shines in the darkness . . . and he has made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Hilaire Belloc says it well: “Do not… be troubled about the increase of forces already in dissolution. You have mistaken the hour of the night. It is already morning!”
Today on your graduation day, leave this university and leave this auditorium as Believers!
Believe in the Primacy of Jesus Christ
Believe in the Priority of Scripture
Believe in the Pursuit of Truth
Believe in the Practice of Wisdom!
Believe what The Song of Solomon tells us:
For lo, the winter is past,
The rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth,
The time of singing has come.
Believe In Christmas!
A Merry Christmas and happy graduation to all!
God bless us everyone and Long live the True King!
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About Dr. Everett Piper
Dr. Piper is the President of Oklahoma Wesleyan University. Associated with Chuck Colson’s Breakpoint and Centurions programs, Dr. Piper is the author of "Why I am a 'Liberal' and Other Conservative Ideas" http://www.whyiamaliberal.com/. He has also authored "The Wrong Side of the Door: Why Ideas Matter. Piper is a frequent speaker on Christian education, Biblical worldview, and applied apologetics in both regional and national venues. For more information go to www.okwu.edu or go to www.everettpiper.com .
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