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There’s so much about Christmas that’s worth enjoying and remembering that no one will ever run out of stories, songs, or sonnets.

Christmas is special because it’s the time we celebrate the birth of Jesus, the babe in the manger who is Savior of the world.

Beyond this greatest of all Christmas gifts most of us add family, tradition, faith and worship, love, hope, goodwill, and peace on earth. We add coming home for the holidays and times just as poignant when we can’t come home. We think of lights and decorations, gifts and giving, holiday music, snow, food and feasting, excited children, seeing loved ones long unseen, and so much more.

Christmas is the best time of year and one of the things that make’s it so are the memories of Christmases past. Even Ebenezer Scrooge knew that much.

Recently I recalled a few of our Christmas memories. Few recollections are more fun. I commend it to you.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow Dr. Rogers at

Halloween is strange in more ways than one. It’s a holiday, so to speak, that started Good, became Bad, and has now turned increasingly Ugly. Yet some of the Good remains.

The Good

Halloween, insofar as it’s about children, innocence, harmless fantasy, candy, and fun is a good thing. That’s the Halloween I grew up with and that’s the Halloween our children experienced. It’s costumes and laughter, silliness, and excitement about how much chocolate you bagged.

Good Halloween is parents, grandparents, or older siblings or friends or relatives standing at the end of driveways waiting for unrecognizable, sort of, children to return. It’s telling them not to run on uneven sidewalks with masks on their face, inevitably being ignored, and inevitably picking someone up, along with their spilled candy. I’ve done this at least a hundred times.

Good Halloween is pumpkin carving, candles, and low-level scary things like black cats in the dark, sheet-ghosts, and big dark Victorian houses.

The annual Pumpkin Carving Night my wife initiated is now about 15 years old, at least. Ten, fifteen, twenty family members and friends show up. We’ve watched girlfriends come and go and a couple of them come and never go—now one of them brings along our baby grandson. It’s a great night of frivolous frivolity. And in a few words, it’s just “good clean fun.” Or maybe not so clean because it produces tons of pumpkin innards.

Halloween can be Good.

The Bad

Halloween has been a suspect holiday from a Christian point of view for a long time. It began, though, as “Holy” or “Hallow’s Eve,” (Halloween) the evening before a church-established holiday called “All Saints' Day,” on which martyrs were remembered. In the early centuries of the church, so many people were martyred for their faith that a special holiday was needed to honor them.

In the Eighth Century, things took a wrong turn. Hallow’s Eve began to be associated with pagan beliefs, including the Celtic festival Samhain. On this day people believed the dead came back and walked among the living. It wasn’t long before people engaged this day by wearing masks, dressing as the dead, introducing bloody sacrifices of animals or even human beings, and worshipping or otherwise practicing the occult, along with attempts to contact the dead, evil spirits, and the Devil himself. Superstitions ran amok.

Costumes became symbols of ghosts and goblins. “Trick or Treat” originated in the belief dead souls were hungry, so food was put out to appease them, or they might respond angrily…with a trick. Jack-o-lanterns were born around Druid religious fires built to ward off evil spirits. People carried home some of the “sacred” fire in hollow vegetables.

It’s too bad we’ve lost the sense of respect represented in All Saints or All Hallow’s Day. Thinking about the martyrs of the faith would be a meaningful reminder in an age that believes nothing significant has gone before. And by the way, it’s of more than passing historical interest that Martin Luther chose October 31, 1517 as the day to post his “95 Theses” on the Wittenberg Door.

Halloween can be Bad.

The Ugly

To say things have gone from bad to worse for Halloween in the past, say, twenty-five years doesn’t cut it. It’s gone from bad to ugly.

Urban centers are especially vulnerable, but virtually every region of the country has experienced the horror of children discovering razor blades embedded in apples or poison in candy. Who could do this? Yet it happens.

Cities like Detroit have been forced to introduce curfews or even suspend Halloween events in an attempt to control burning on Devil’s Night or Fright Night. The New Jersey Department of Education has designated the third week of October “Violence and Vandalism Week,” and conducts awareness programs to warn parents. School districts across the country have cancelled Halloween festivities in the name of safety for children.

Meanwhile, Halloween in the marketplace has become a celebration of the ghoulishness, vulgarity, gore, slashers, sensuality even for young children, mutilation, and gaudy Mardi Gras-like orgy. In neighborhoods, malicious pranks have increased, as have juvenile delinquency and property destruction. No longer do a group of boys coax a cow onto the school rooftop. Now they break windows, set fire to laboratories, or assault passers-by, all in the name of Halloween.

Halloween can be Ugly.

So What Now?

Has Halloween become an increasingly threatening nemesis of our children? Should we ignore or maybe resist it?

Many Christian families take a “Total Withdrawal” approach and no longer observe Halloween other than perhaps via church-sponsored Halloween-alternative events. Other Christian families opt for a “Selective Participation” approach, looking upon Halloween like everything else, as a matter for spiritual discernment. Still others abandon Halloween because they don't like the high sugar content and low nutrition value of typical Halloween candy.

Our family applied the Selective Participation approach, and I think it worked well. I'm not against all Halloween celebrations and certainly not against children enjoying dress-up fantasy and candy. Nor am I against some scary entertainment, though horror in general is not my thing and I admire Stephen King more as an author than as horror-king. Some of Halloween is fun, but I'm usually glad each year when the day has come and gone because much in the media run-up is grotesque theatre of the absurd.

Halloween is part of cultural change. It requires us to apply our faith in a way that "tests the spirits to see whether they are from God" (1 John 4:1). Only in this way will we be able to maintain a biblical view of the world in the time in which God has placed us.

Talk about all this with your children in light of God's Word. Make Halloween, the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, into something that's positive for your kids. Make Halloween a teaching moment.

Halloween is now the second-highest money making holiday of the year. It’s not going to go away. So we have to discern what’s good and enjoy. Teach your kids, line upon line, precept upon precept.

And oh, our annual Pumpkin Carving Night is tonight.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow Dr. Rogers at


There’re a few things I think the world would be better off without. Wouldn’t it be great to ring out the old year and leave these things behind with 2006? Here’s my list:

The Iraq War. Sure, I know this is unrealistic, but we’re dreaming here, OK? No matter what one’s political philosophy, surely we can agree that we wish either the war was over or, more to the point, our soldiers and sailors were home.

Saddam Hussein. Personally, he’s history. Let’s hope his legacy is also history. He left us with one last ludicrous image, a mass murderer carrying the Koran and mouthing religious statements on his way to the grave.

Vitriolic Partisan Politics. The Founding Fathers knew there would always be factions, and in some sense this fact is a strength of the American republic. But the disappearance of gentlemen politicians like Gerald R. Ford has not been good for our democratic polity. In their stead, we’ve witnessed the emergence of politicians who confuse disagreement over ideas with disrespect of persons. These politicians on both sides of the isle loathe one another. This cannot be and is not good for the country.

Poster Boys for Poor Sportsmanship. France’s World Cup Zinedine Zidane, NBA’s Allen Iverson, MLB’s Barry Bonds, Dallas Maverick’s owner Mark Cuban, Denver Nuggets vs. New York Knicks, NFL’s Terrell Owens, Olympian embarassment Bodie Miller, perennial poor sportsman Coach Bobby Knight.

World Poker Tour. This isn’t about competition. It’s about gambling, greed, and a gullible audience.

“Truthiness.” This new word for an old problem—not telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth—describes “authors” James Frey, O.J. Simpson and “publisher” Judith Regan, and Harvard undergraduate Kaavya Viswanathan. It also describes political “spin.

“Oh My God!” Is this the only phrase television and film writers know for demonstrating surprise? I, for one, am tired of hearing this phrase constantly on television programming, even from the mouths of children. From a Christian perspective, this is using the Lord’s name in vain and a violation of the third of the Ten Commandments. TV and movie writers, “Get a clue. Find a new phrase indicating surprise or concern.”

E.D. Commercials. Am I the only one weary of erectile dysfunction advertisements? O.K., we know this physical condition exists and that products like Viagra and Cialis, to name only two, are made to address the problem. So why do we need to keep hearing about it on nighttime television?

Voyueristic, Self-indulgent “Reality” Shows. Enough with hearing about everyone’s feelings. I watch television to escape and be entertained, not to live through the problems of someone else’s life, especially immature, narcissitic people.

Celebrity Worship. This is an old one, but wouldn’t it be great to leave behind in 2006 the lives and foibles of TomKat, Brangelina, Britney Spears and Fed Ex, Lindsay Lohan, Nicole Ritchie, and Paris Hilton? Does what these people do really matter?

Soft Porn in Mainstream Advertising. No one can say with a straight face the sex saturation is not the primary, regular, and overwhelming mode of presentation in virtually all mainstream advertising. I venture to guess that any given man alive today has through media seen more female flesh than any one hundred men a century ago, even men faithfully married for sixty years.

Same Sex Marriage Debates. Who, even one generation ago, would have believed there would come a day when this kind of immorality would be openly discussed, embraced, and even promoted? I do not wish to deny any person, no matter what their sexual choices, their citizenship rights to life, liberty, safety, or opportunity. On the other hand, I see nothing good coming to a culture that legalizes sexual perversion.

“Evangelicals” as a New Political Word. Since the 2000 presidential election, “Evangelicals” has become a media term for any religiously devout Protestant who holds to so-called traditional views of morality. Such “Evangelicals” who hold such views are no longer considered part of a long heritage of American Christian beliefs but rather representatives of some strange new “fringe,” Far Right, or otherwise extremist group. I think this is an unfair and an inaccurate characterization and I am weary of being labeled improperly.

Poor Cell Phone Etiquette. I use a cell phone—regularly. I don’t use it standing immediately beside another person. I don’t use it loudly in restaurants. I don’t generally interrupt meetings with others to take cell phone calls. I was actually in a funeral home recently, talking to another man in the line waiting to pay respects to the deceased and extend condolences to family members. The man felt his phone ring, took it out and looked at it, then said “Excuse me” and proceeded to interrupt his conversation with me and conduct business on the phone in the funeral home waiting line. That one was over the top for me—and this fellow is a nice guy. But he’s addicted to his phone.

What would you like to leave behind in 2006?


© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at

The shift from the “Spirit of Christmas” to the “Spirit of New Years” always bothers me. The first focuses upon love, family, the Christ child, gifts, warmth, and well-being. The latter focuses, at least in popular culture and media, on hard-partying, alcohol consumption, pushing the limits, and excess. And this abrupt shift all takes place within a week.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a party-pooper—or at least I don’t think I am. I’ve gone to my share of New Year’s Eve parties, and I’ve enjoyed the fun, friends, and fellowship. But I’m not impressed with people who want to let it all hang out in an overnight effort to develop a historic hang over. What’s it really mean to hammer yourself this way? It’s like these people have had enough of giving to others and now they want to live, live, live for themselves. New Year’s Eve as portrayed in media always feels to me like “Narcissism run amok.”

I do like the idea of New Year’s Resolutions, though. As an educator, I get this opportunity more than once per year, at the beginning of the Fall Semester and again at the beginning of the Spring Semester. But for most people, New Year’s is the time when we think about what we’d like to change about ourselves and our lives. Insofar as people take this opportunity seriously I think it’s a good practice. I’ve known people who set out to change their professions and did. I’ve known people who’ve made resolutions to lose 10 or 20 or 30 pounds and did. I’ve also known some people who’ve set spiritual goals, some publicly shared and some privately held, but each to good effect as these folks learned to trust God anew with their “issues.”

One way I’ve tried to keep the Christmas spirit alive into the New Year is to use this week to reflect upon who during the past year has made the most positive impact upon or contribution to my life. Who helped me when they did not have to do so? Who corrected or mentored or invested in me? Who gave to me with no expectation of return? Who, aside from my family, cared about me in a way that I wish I more consistently cared about others? Who really made a mark on me this past year?

When I identify these few people, maybe no more than three or four, usually but not always men, I write each one of them a one or two page hand-written thank you. I’ve done this pretty consistently for about twenty years. I’m not saying this to draw kudos or because I think this small act makes me special. I say it because it’s been a very good “discipline” for me, reminding me that I do not achieve alone, that I do not contribute alone, that I do not succeed alone, and that I want to be like the one leper out of ten who returned to thank the Lord Jesus for healing him, not the nine who lived ungratefully.

If you become oddly saddened by the mad and maddening rush of the New Year, I recommend this practice of reflection and thanksgiving to you. It will uplift your spirit. It will uplift others’ spirits to whom you write, and it will extend the Spirit of Christmas into the New Year.


© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at

As Christmas approaches we find ourselves in another round of the Christmas culture wars—this time with Christmas winning. Wal-Mart recently announced it would not only allow but encourage its Associates to jettison last year’s “Happy Holiday” greetings in favor of the traditional “Merry Christmas.” While Best Buy is sticking with generic holiday salutations, in their view, “respecting” all their customers, Macy’s, Kohl’s, and Walgreen are joining Wal-Mart in a return to Christmas.

While these moves are more about profit than philosophy it’s still good to see common sense reassert itself. Christmas is more than the Christian holy day honoring the birth of Christ. It is an internationally recognized time of cheer, expressions of peace, and goodwill. It is a time of gift-giving and gift-receiving, of family and food, and of rest and reflection.

Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, curiously criticized Wal-Mart, saying that when Wal-Mart officials “cave into these demands, they are really making a statement that non-Christians should probably go elsewhere this holiday season.” If there was ever an example of a secularist mindset, this is it. What does Wal-Mart, a retail corporation, have to do with separation of church and state? And for that matter, if non-Christians are offended by Christmas, why are they shopping during the holiday season? Lynn’s comment reveals an anti-religion bias that runs much deeper than any concerns he may have about how church and state function best.

It’s true. “Merry Christmas” means something very special to Christian people, so as a believer I’m glad to welcome it back. But it does the phrase no damage to note that it has grown beyond its uniquely religious and specifically Christian heritage. It’s now a cultural expression intended to wish someone well in the season at hand. It’s no more threatening to non-Christians than Santa Claus is to Christians. So “Three Cheers” to the American retail giants restoring a bit of sanity to the season, and “Merry Christmas” to all.


© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at

The transition in focus and tone from Christmas to New Years never fails to startle and bother me. For at least a month, maybe two months, leading to Christmas, people’s thoughts focus on gifts for friends and loved ones, re-connecting with people we haven’t seen for awhile, and the warmth, joy, and sheer wonder of Christmas time. This is true even for non-religious people. For those of us who believe the babe in the manger became our risen Savior, it is an even more joyous time. It’s the spirit of Christmas that Charles Dickens’ immortal character, Ebenezer Scrooge, learned about in time to make a difference in his life and the lives of others.

Then it happens. Christmas is over. Boom. Just like that the spirit of Christmas is set aside in a mad rush to see how many spirits one can drink and still stand up. Don’t get me wrong. I like New Years. I like resolutions, football games, parades, and more family, friends, food, and fellowship. I don’t like the New Year’s Day television focus on current celebrities, canned conversation, and cheap cognac. After the eternal verities and moving traditions of Christmas, New Years all seems so shallow. Because for the most part, it is—at least “as portrayed on TV” or at your local New Years Eve party.

I have found a few antidotes. I watch the news, old movies, parades, and football games and otherwise, I leave the television off. Reading the books I got for Christmas, visiting with house guests or being a guest at someone else’s house, writing, or catching up on some project around the house is far more rewarding.

On Christmas Eve in our home we read the Christmas story from Luke 2 and Matthew 2, in that order. On New Years Eve or New Years Day, we sometimes share “New Years Resolutions.” I like the idea of resolutions. It’s an opportunity to set new goals, establish new directions, or reinforce old but important values in our lives. It’s a chance to commune with the Lord and discern what his Spirit might want us to do differently so that we may better serve him.

Resolutions are a healthy exercise, especially if one of your resolutions is to commit yourself to more healthy exercise. Establishing New Years Resolutions is healthy because it’s forward-looking, it’s an act of hope and promise, it’s an expressed desire to achieve more, contribute more, be a better person, or be what your potential suggests you can be. Setting resolutions is a creative act that I think mirrors our divine creation and our Creator. Establishing New Years Resolutions can be, or at least should be, about becoming more of what God intended us to be.

So I suggest to you that you join me this New Years in focusing upon the Spirit rather than spirits and in extending the Christmas spirit into 2006. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.


© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2005

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at