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|Joy To The World||
Thousands of years ago, the Israelites had been persecuted and scattered by their Babylonian conquerors. After the Babylonian Empire fell, Nehemiah became the civil governor of Jerusalem. In an address to the people, he tried to encourage them by saying, "Do not mourn and weep... Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared... Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength."
Fast forward to 2004, as we begin a festive holiday season filled with gifts, feasts, and recreation. While this should be a season to sing "joy to the world," we must remember that there are thousands of families who will deeply feel the loss a loved one during the holiday season -- whether it's from the terrorist attacks from three years ago, the fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, or any other circumstance that takes the life of someone close. And while we buy each other things that we often don't really need and consume more delicious food than we really need, we must not forget those who lack the very basics.
The words of Governor Nehemiah still ring true.
Note that he instructed them to "enjoy choice food and sweet drinks." Those of us who live in a country that reaps the benefits of freedom and prosperity need not feel guilty for enjoying the blessings that we have been given. Our country was founded by people who respected the Almighty and set out to protect the rights of every individual. We have tried to change for the betterment of society. We have sent our sons to die in order to beat back tyrants and give others the opportunity to embrace the freedom that we know. Americans have worked hard, fought for justice, and prospered in every way. We have reason to celebrate and we should do so.
At the same time, the governor immediately followed his declaration of celebration with the reminder to "send some to those who have nothing prepared." Our prosperity becomes a negative thing when we forget about those who are not so prosperous.
Our organization works year-round to give food to starving children, provide fresh water wells in areas where waterborne diseases claim innocent lives, build homes for those exposed to the harsh elements, send a medical aid into emergency situations, provide loving homes for orphans, and meet other basic needs for desperate people around the world. Many churches, companies, and charities provide a way to help those within our own communities who have some level of need.
While it is certainly wise to put your time, effort, and resources into a reputable organization, it is also important to do something to help another person. As individuals and as a nation, America must always be ready to reach out to those who need help and welcome it.
At a time when much of the world seems to be caught up in an unjustified hatred of America, the best way to turn our enemies into friends is through an act of kindness. When we truly care for others, we are strong. History will show that the liberation of oppressed nations is an act of a mercy, not aggression. But in the short term, it will be the one-on-one acts of compassion that win the hearts and minds of people.
So enjoy the holidays this year, celebrate the time with your loved ones, and look for a way to express the true spirit of Christmas with someone in need.