(Official Washington Examiner editorial, Dec. 25 full editorial; slightly different version here)

The Gospel of John begins with the famous formulation that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

That and the next 13 verses are among the most poetic and the treasured in all of history. Of Christmas, John says that “the true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.”

So the Son of God is proclaimed both as the Word and as true light. The former description, of course, is itself a play on words. As written in Greek, the word for “the Word” is “logos,” which is a sort of super-logic or super-knowledge that most dictionaries today translate as divine reason or wisdom, implicit and manifest throughout the cosmos. It is a wisdom deeper and more important than mere empirical evidence can quite capture. Christ is, then, in this telling, the pre-existing source of the deepest wisdom there is, the wisdom of God’s creation itself.

In that, well, light, let us all celebrate this holiday with a yearning and openness to true wisdom and a willingness to act on it.

The obvious question arises: How do we discern this form of exalted wisdom, or even discern and work in concert with the roughest human attempts to approximate it?

Well, the wisdom, the Word, isn’t political, but in the civic realm writ large there are things that deep wisdom tells us. Again and again both the Old and New Testaments tell us that God created us for “freedom,” or as 2 Corinthians put it, “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” First and foremost, the freedom to worship God and live according to the dictates of our faith is not a grant from government but a gift from God. It is fundamental to a just society. A civic order that does not recognize this, that does not protect this, that does not cherish this freedom, is an illegitimate regime.

It took visionaries on this continent, though, to cherish this freedom and enshrine it into fundamental law. Nowhere else had this freedom of conscience been so deeply understood, valued, and protected. Recognizing this freedom as fundamental, brilliant men wrote a Declaration and a Constitution dedicated to it and to its progeny, and then made it explicit in that Constitution’s Bill of Rights.

From the polity that grew from and around this freedom and this Constitution grew the mightiest nation on Earth, and also the nation that year in and year out is the most charitable, and that bears the largest burdens so that others might be free and healthy.

It is certainly in the realm of wisdom, therefore, to protect the Constitution that protects this first of our freedoms. It is in the realm of wisdom to try to make this nation, with its combination of liberty and justice, a light that inspires others.

This is not to say that the Constitution is God’s work or God’s will. It is to say, though, that because it preserves the freedom in which the will of God can work its wonders, it is deeply wise to abide by it, rather than, as some on both sides do, to try to game it, evade it, or ignore it. Until something as deeply and thoughtfully considered, and as legitimately ratified by a free people, replaces it, it must be treated as something that is, in the civic realm, most sacred.

This is not a partisan observation. This is a universal plea for preserving the civic space within which the Word, in its (or His) mysterious ways, can effectuate God’s blessings.

Those blessings, we must always acknowledge, are many, and are wondrous indeed. In every realm of creation far beyond the civic sphere, in nature’s beauty and bounty and in the courage and kindness of heroes and everyday saints, those blessings are evident. Or, to use a better word, they are “incarnate” in the very marrow of life.

Christians today believe that God Himself became incarnate, too, in the form of an infant in lowly circumstances. We should also celebrate that the Word can come in the humblest of forms – and that a little child can lead us.



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