Archive for July 2012

Christmas in July

July 5, 2012

Christmas in July

By Steven J. Callis

While some credit The Byrds in their 1965 recording, others will remember that Pete Seeger actually penned the lyrics in 1959 and recorded his version of Turn, Turn, Turn (to everything there is a season) in 1962.  Still others correctly understand that these lyrics were adapted entirely from the Book of Ecclesiastes, traditionally ascribed to King Solomon.

In one of our local stores last week I was taken by surprise as three aisles of Independence Day decorations and supplies were followed by several aisles and displays of Christmas decorations!  I checked my Daytimer to verify that it truly is July.  There were hundreds of ornaments, boxes of lights, candles, crafts, and other decorations to remind me that Christmas in only – – well, about 6 months away!  What happened to “to everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven?”

I thought in contrast to this store about another store owner who told his pastor, “On December 26 my job is to rid the store of Christmas in one day.”  The pastor replied, “My job is to keep the spirit of Christmas alive in the hearts of people all year long!”

Robert Mantzke composed a children’s musical titled, “365 Days of Christmas.”  As the songs take the audience through various holidays celebrated in America, the children find ways and reasons to demonstrate the love of Jesus no matter the occasion.  The children convince themselves that it is possible to have Christmas all year long.  Suddenly one of the children realizes a huge problem: will the adults go along with this idea?  The musical ends with a challenge to the adult audience who is asked to repeat a vow of promise that they will do their best to keep the spirit of Christmas alive 365 days each year.

Were the children expecting to wake up every day to wrapped gifts overflowing a decorated tree?  Were they expecting every day to be a holiday?  Of course not; they simply realized that the real gift of Christmas is demonstrating love and kindness to others as a reflection of Jesus’ love for us (John 3:16).

So as the fireworks were being beautifully displayed across the skies in honor and celebration of Independence Day for the United States of America, I wanted to break out in song: “Joy to the world, the Lord is come.  Let earth receive her King.  Let every heart prepare Him room, and heaven and nature sing.”

Happy Birthday USA

July 3, 2012

Happy Birthday USA

Steven J. Callis

So, tomorrow we will celebrate our nation’s birthday.  Gift-buying is very difficult for this occasion.  First, is America male or female?  That is, we sing of our nation with such lyrics as, “stand beside her, and guide her” in a song that prays for God’s hand upon her.  Yet, Uncle Sam clearly is an elderly gentleman with gray hair, gray goatee, and a white top hat.  By the way, the evolution of Uncle Sam is quite interesting.

In the earlier days of existence, America was personalized as “Brother Jonathan,” a character used in editorial cartoons – a typical, middle class American.  Some believe that the name may have been derived from Connecticut governor Jonathan Trumbull.  It is said that George Washing once uttered the words, “We must consult Brother Jonathan” when faced with a difficult issue.  Apparently, Uncle Sam is derivative of Samuel Wilson, a meat packer who supplied rations for soldiers.  The food packages required the name of the sender and the origin of the package, which was E.A. – US.  E.A. was Wilson’s company, Elbert Anderson, and US was, of course, “United States.”  A coworker jokingly said that US was for “Uncle Sam,” and the rations were soon thereafter accredited to “Uncle Sam.”

As early as 1835 Brother Jonathan made a reference to Uncle Sam implying that they symbolized different things: Brother Jonathan was the country itself while Uncle Sam was the government and its power (  By the 1850’s the two were used almost synonymously, and eventually “Uncle Sam” became the favored term.  Uncle Sam’s current image was created by James Montgomery Flagg in a recruitment cartoon that appeared on the cover of the magazine, Leslie’s Weekly, in 1916.

OK, that is probably much more than you wanted to know about Uncle Sam!  But the aforementioned gender issue is not the real problem.  The second and foremost difficulty in gift-buying for the country’s birthday is simply this: what do you get for someone who already has more resource and blessing than most countries could ever imagine?  It would have to be something really big, something that I cannot afford on my own.  In fact, the whole nation would need to chip in to afford the appropriate gift. What does Uncle Sam need?  Peace. Unity. Revival.  Compassion.  Respect. Neighbor regard. Prayer.  As you grill your burgers and display your fireworks and such, remember to say a prayer for Uncle Sam and determine that you will continue to do your part in giving “her” what she needs.