Time And A Half On Christmas Eve
Las Vegas cab drivers love Christmas Eve. Most of December is dead in the gambling capital of the known universe. And the week leading up to Christmas is the deadest week of all. But Christmas Eve is like a grunion run. The frenetic crush of late arrivals and departures are in a blind, plunging panic to get out of town, get to Grandma’s house, or get to the nearest casino bar for one of their world-famous 50¢ drinks.
So the cab drivers get time and a half on Christmas Eve to motivate them to pick up the slack. Or at least they used to. I’ve been gone long enough to no longer be able to speak with authority on the subject, but I’d be surprised if things have changed to the point where this time-honored holiday tradition in the party capital of the western world is no longer the case.
At first glance, the lure of Las Vegas on Christmas would seem contradictory. What possible appeal could this glitzy tourist Mecca promising easy money and fast women hold for the celebrants of quite possibly the most revered holiday of the year? Actually, you might be surprised. Las Vegas – the community now, not the gambling halls – is a sucker for sentiment and schmaltz and could rival the finest Norman Rockwell masterpiece when it comes to tugging at the heartstrings of America. But, the traveling public isn’t aware of this well-kept secret. So, for the uninitiated, the town attracts fundamentally three types of travelers on Christmas Eve.
The first are people who are coming home. That’s right, campers. Las Vegas is actually home to a great many people who grew up there, spread their wings, and flew the coop to seek their fame and fortune elsewhere. But Christmas tugs at the heartstrings of wanderers making their journey through life, and many of these sojourners make a beeline for home. They take a break from the struggles of the weary round of life, the hardness of the world, and relax in the warmth of family, friends and familiar environs. And it doesn’t matter if the billboards along the way advertise no-cover totally nude strip clubs and double odds on craps.
Then there are relatives who are visiting family who moved there. Mom and Dad retired, sold their palatial Malibu beachfront estate for hundreds of millions of dollars, bought a ranch-style Vegas home – probably in Summerlin – for a fraction of that, and the kids are taking a few days off to visit the folks over the holidays. And the money they save on a hotel can be put to good use nursing the nearest quarter progressive slot machine.
And finally, there are those lost souls who have no family, no friends, no home to speak of and nowhere to go. Las Vegas is a great anesthetic to dull the never-ending ache of alienation, isolation and solitude, if only for the moment. And it is especially enticing when that dull, numbing ache flares up into a massive pain in the heart.
These are the desperate, empty husks of humanity you see early Christmas morning, if circumstances bring you to any of the hotels, working a row of slot machines, red-eyed from working them all night long. But hey, the lights are bright, the Christmas decorations next to the roulette wheel are colorful, and the drinks never stop. So what’s not to like?
The circumstances that brought me there last Christmas were a combination of all three. I lived there long enough to put down roots. The place qualified as a home, of sorts. So in a sense I was returning, to visit friends who pass for family. There are a great many people who moved there like I did. Some got out while the getting was good. Others stayed on. So I was playing the role of the prodigal son, and at the same time, I was part of the conga line of lost souls who visits the party capital of the world because when you have no place to go on Christmas, you go to Vegas.
Ultimately, the circumstances are not important. How I spent my time there was. I decided to attend Christmas Eve services at the Methodist Church where I became a Christian twenty years before.
I had been warned what to expect.
It was a small church, one of many that dotted the landscape of the Las Vegas Valley. Driving by, if you were not looking for it, you would never know it was there. Twenty years before, my spiritual, intellectual and career wells ran dry. The relationship I had with the woman I came to think of as the love of my life, long ailing, had expired. I was adrift in my career. I had no direction. And in my mid-30s, I expected to have more to show for half a lifetime.
It was a professor at the local university who, over lunch, invited me to the Methodist Church one Sunday. Having nothing else that resembled a good idea, I took him up on his offer. I walked in to the middle of a study of Matthew 11:28-30:
28 “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
The minister teaching this study was an interesting combination of Methodist intellectual dogma, and Southern Baptist theology. He held advanced degrees from several Methodist seminaries. But he was also the Georgia-born son of a Southern Baptist evangelist. And try as he might, he simply could not escape the grace of God.
This tense combination of theological orientations was the perfect formula for someone like me – suspicious of both, and yet empty, and searching for an answer that would bring some meaning to life.
It worked like a charm. I attended during the fall of that year. In January, I confessed Jesus Christ, took baptism and became a Christian. No other approach would have worked for me. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Twenty years later, I was warned that times had changed.
Aside from the place looking smaller – a common complaint for prodigal sons returning home after years of wandering in the desert – I concluded that times may have changed, but the geography certainly had not. Everything was exactly where it had been. The cast of characters had changed in the persons of a new minister and staff, but other than that, déjà vu was working overtime on Christmas Eve along with the cab drivers.
That’s where the similarities ended.
The Methodist Church does not do a Bible study per se in its services, at least not since I’ve been familiar with their rituals. Coming back after twenty years, I found this to be an awkward part of the service. Over the years, I’ve graduated to more conservative, evangelical congregations where a Bible study is standard practice, and woe be unto the parishioner who forgets his or her Bible on Sunday morning. But the Methodists do provide a Bible reading. And the passage for Christmas Eve was Luke 2:1-7.
1 And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the world should be registered. 2 This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. 3 So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. 4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. 6 So it was that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
The choice of a Scripture passage to read on Christmas Eve was not surprising. Its interpretation, however, was.
The minister spoke of how – by virtue of this passage – Jesus entered the world an outcast. There was no room at the inn, after all. Jesus was oppressed, alienated, and cast his lot with the human flotsam and jetsam of his time. His (Jesus’) was a ministry to the downtrodden, the poverty-stricken, and the wretched refuse of the world. Those unfortunate souls who were cast into the gutter to die alone, penniless and without hope by an oppressive ruling class were Jesus’ people.
The minister went on to point out how part of the local church outreach in Las Vegas was concerned with ministering to the hospitalized “undocumented migrants” locally, who courageously crossed an arid desert to claw out a desperate foothold in an inherently hostile country (America) in the meager hope of building a better life for themselves and their children.
He concluded by stating that this passage clearly calls us as Christians to open out homes, our hearts, and most importantly our wallets to these innocent victims of bigotry and hate so they may throw off the yoke of oppression of the fascist oppressors of the innocent peoples of color of the third world. Only by abolishing all borders, dissolving the sovereignty of an inherently unjust country (America, again), and calling for increased state and federal aid for our downtrodden brethren can Jesus’ vision of a harmonious one-world utopian society be realized. Only in this way can there be true equality for all peoples of the world. Only in this fashion can we be known as true followers of Jesus Christ. . .
I had been warned, after all.
People told me the Methodist Church wasn’t what it once was. I guess you can’t go home again, after all. Looks like Liberation Theology is alive and well and living in the Methodist Church. Sad to say, that’s not the only place it is thriving.
The problem with the mantra of such philosophies is that it sounds good and feels even better. Who could possibly be opposed to freedom for the oppressed peoples of color of the third world? What cold-hearted beast could endorse throwing indigent, sick people who don’t even speak the English language being out of their hospital beds on Christmas Eve to freeze to death on the streets of a heartless country? Not even Ebenezer Scrooge was so ruthless.
The problem is it’s a lie.
At a time when the foundations of American identity are being knocked out of the bottom of the societal infrastructure one pillar at a time, the marriage of international Marxism and the radical revolutionary theology of the 1960s make strange bedfellows indeed. But they both serve the same purpose – to question, weaken and ultimately abolish the character of American culture.
The practice of using Christian doctrine to validate secular policy has precedent in American history. 19th century evangelical preachers of the antebellum South used Col. 3:22 to justify the righteousness of slavery. The Robber Barons of the post-Civil War era used II Thessalonians 3:10 to validate the horrendous working conditions of their factories.
In more recent years, traditional churches, now dominated by liberal leadership, have used Mt. 11:28 as a validation for gay marriage. The aforementioned passage from Luke’s gospel fits nicely into the globalist new world order of many contemporary politicos from both sides of the aisle. Let’s face it, the slave masters of the Old South may have denied their “property” the most basic of human dignities, i.e., personal freedom. But they openly offered them the comfort of the Gospel, in whatever form they (the masters) deemed fit to present it.
And so, many of our traditional churches embrace a philosophy that would make Karl Marx smile in satisfaction. No one may be allowed to embrace a philosophy of personal achievement – a practice that has worked so well up to now, that individual Americans are among the most generous of all the peoples of the world. No one may think in terms of national identity. To do so would be inherently bigoted, hateful, and blatantly ignore the suffering and oppression of the victims of injustice in the third world. All must provide the sustenance for the poverty-stricken around the world. From each according to his ability. To each according to his need.
The voluntary outpouring of the generosity of Americans to this end has been nothing less than spectacular. But only if it is a voluntary contribution, brought about by God’s conviction of each individual human heart who are so called to contribute. Not as a result of a moral imperative of the radical leadership of contemporary churches or secular leaders according to a clerical or social re-engineering agenda.
So too do international corporate power brokers offer a twisted view of God’s Word to assuage the concerns of the emerging serfs in the burgeoning world of post-modern feudalism. In their paradigm, America is not a sovereign nation where an individual human being can rise as far as talent and ambition can take them. It is one of many international markets, and must, by necessity, have a world view of radical egalitarianism in which no human being may ever rise to challenge the ruling elite.
So, those among the power structure who even bother to read the Bible, have redefined Jesus as a benevolent CEO, carefully doling out perks to the great unwashed and burdened by the heavy load of responsibility to provide for the needs of the little people of the world.
The secular, radical left has reduced Jesus to an avenging radical activist, poised and ready to visit retribution on the wealthy oppressors of the innocent victims of their wickedness and injustice.
But Jesus Christ transcends both warped world views. To consign Him to the corporate board room in a suit and tie, doling out hand-me-downs to the peasants, all the while being about his true mission of expanding the wealth of the organization, is absurd.
To reduce Him to some gun-toting revolutionary with twin bandoliers of ammunition criss-crossed across his chest, and an AK-47 at high port shouting “Power to the people!” is pathetic.
The corporate globalists and radical secular leftists are all about the same thing: power. Although they approach their objectives from opposite sides of the political sphere, their goal is the same: control. And in this quest, no means of achieving this end is beyond their willingness to use it. They will use the ballot box. They will use massive contributions of money. They will use moral suasion. They will twist every truth Americans hold dear in ways both subtle and convincing to attain the goal of holding the reigns of power and calling the shots.
But Jesus Christ transcends all feeble attempts to mold Him into a form that can be used by the various factions of our world. He came into the world to accomplish two things: Preach to good news of God’s grace, and die for the sins of the world. In this, He was singularly successful.
Jesus did indeed cast his lot with publicans and sinners, because those who were not sick had no need for a physician. He came to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance. (Mark 2:17). His intent was not to overthrow the power elite (at least not yet). His purpose was to minister to the lost.
Jesus did not command us to overthrow the ruling authority or to enhance its power. He called us to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength; and love our neighbor as ourselves. (Luke 10:27).
But Jesus did command us to go forth and make disciples in all the nations of the world, baptizing in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. (Mt. 28:19).
As Americans, we can see the erosion of our country happening before our very eyes. There is no need to catalogue the specifics. We can simply pick up a newspaper, turn on TV news, or listen to the radio to know the truth of this. Many of us view this phenomenon with a growing sense of helplessness. Indeed, the prospect of what to do and how to do it in the wake of such an impending collapse is a daunting one.
Still others go through the motions of life, blissfully ignorant of the forces at work in our country that will ultimately lead to its destruction. We go to work. We go home. We take care of business. And beyond that, a good many of us simply don’t want to be bothered. I pulled up behind a car last week with a license plate frame that said it all: DON’T BOTHER ME. . . I GOT MINE.
The issue of situational awareness came up just recently, at church of all places. I attend a prosperous conservative evangelical church in the local area, having long since graduated from the implosion of the Methodist Church years ago. During our fellowship hour between services, the subject came up of “why do we go to church?” A very prosperous member of our community was questioned in this manner. A look of complete astonishment came over his face, and he answered with the impatience of a man who can clearly see the truth (his own at any rate), while others are somehow unable to digest the obvious.
“Why do I go to church?” He intoned. “It’s Sunday!” He answered and walked away.
How could we be so blind? It’s plain for anyone to see. Monday through Friday we take care of business. Saturday, we do our “honey-do’s”. Sunday we go to church.
So. Those of us who have reduced the worship of God to a mere weekly ritual bear some of the responsibility for the erosion of the faith, and along with it, the country. Those of us for whom God’s Word is but one of many factors in our lives, and a minor one at that, will reap the consequences along with the rest of us.
Nature abhors a vacuum. And in the void produced by an absence of a commitment to the grace of God, something will fill that void. And what fills it will be whatever those who have a commitment to their own self-interest bring to the table. Hence, we live with an encroaching globalist corporate agenda, radical secular leftist activism, and an apostate view of God’s grace that sounds good and feels good, but is anything but.
The lessons of history dictate that the reign of empire is like a spinning wheel. And nobody and nothing can long stand erect on its rotating surface. Whether America’s day walk in the sun is approaching its twilight is something only time will tell. What replaces America – an EU-type North American super state or some vassal confederation to the emerging south Asian economic powers who even now do our heavy lifting and provide our essential services – no one can tell.
But, as Americans, we would do well to consider how we define ourselves, in this, the possible end times of our country. Do we define ourselves as Americans? And what will that definition entail if and when the heritage of America goes the way of the Old South? Or do we define ourselves as followers of the Risen Lord, when that may be all we have left? For many of us, that self-definition may be our last resort when it should well be our first priority.
Either way, we can rest in the assurance that Jesus Christ will come again. I will not speculate as to when and how. More accomplished scholars than I have tried and made fools of themselves in the attempt.
Whence last He walked the earth, He ministered to the lost and died on the Cross so those who believe in Him could be saved, forgiven and reconciled to God. Because there is no free lunch when it comes to Sin. Somebody had to count the cost and pay the price. Somebody did.
Whence next we see Him, He will come to judge the nations and rule them with a rod of iron. (Rev. 19:15) And for those who now corrupt and manipulate the truth of Jesus Christ to their own ends, whatever those ends may be, that judgment will be very great.
Very great indeed.
by Euro-American Scum
(contributing team member of Allegiance and Duty Betrayed)