December 2007 Commencement Address

Oklahoma Wesleyan University

Everett Piper, President

 

Students, as we come to the end of the year 2007 and join together today for your commencement, your college graduation, I want to talk about ideas.  That’s what this day is all about isn’t it?  It is a  celebration of ideas, a celebration of education and all that it means – all the challenges - all the joy - all the opportunities that come with ideas. 

 

Ideas like those found in the Oklahoma Wesleyan University mission statement. The Priority of Scripture, the Pursuit of Truth, the Practice of Wisdom.  Ideas that have been tested by time, Ideas that have been validated by experience, Ideas that have been confirmed by revelation.  Ideas – Oh the power of ideas. . .

 

But I forgot one didn’t I?  Did you notice?  It was the most powerful idea of them all.  I want to talk about the power of a singular idea, an idea that stands alone, and idea that changed the world, an idea that continues to change your neighborhood, your family, your marriage, your mind, your soul. It is the idea of Christ: The Primacy of Jesus Christ.  It is the idea of Christmas. 

 

Christmas: “The most wonderful time of the year.” When I think of all that that this story represents – The first Noel, the Herald Angels singing, Peace on Earth, Glory to God in the Highest, the New Born King, Emanuel, God with us -   I can’t help but share one of my favorite stories from C.S. Lewis’ 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 last year 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 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. This is simply a land of 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 her at all. No, the driver of the sleigh is a great, glad, giant of a man all dressed 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! Long live the true King!”

Over 2,000 years ago the world was suffering through a cold dark winter. Civil unrest was rampant in the Middle East and the power of Western Civilization was crumbling under the weight of moral decadence (Sound familiar?). 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 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. Sudan, Syria, Palestine: Always winter but never Christmas. Iraq, Iran, North Korea: Always winter but never Christmas. Columbine, 911, Virginia Tech, and just this week - Omaha: Always winter but never Christmas. Famine, nuclear proliferation, governmental corruption, corporate greed, racism: 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 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, hope and love were born anew, winter began to melt away, and Christmas sprang alive in a stable under the stars.

“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. Remember that light always diminishes darkness, warmth always melts what is cold, and the Son is always stronger than winter. 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, I beseech you, be troubled about the increase of forces already in dissolution. You have mistaken the hour of the night. It is already morning.”

For lo, the winter is past,
The rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth,
The time of singing has come.
(Song of Solomon 2:11-12)

So students, today at your commencement, as you graduate from Oklahoma Wesleyan University, I leave you with a very simple but yet sacred Idea.

“A Merry Christmas! – Long live the True King!