Merry Christmas, Everyone.
Shirley and I want to wish you and your family a very blessed season as believers around the world celebrate the birth of our Savior. Since I was a child, I have cherished this time of the year when nearly everything I loved was uppermost, including togetherness with my family and friends, sacred choral performances, the giving of gifts, decorated trees and lights, wonderful food from marvelous southern cooks, and the story of baby Jesus. It was all there each year in late December.
Unfortunately, many of these traditions and celebrations are no longer observed throughout the culture. What a shame it is that the Christmases that used to be popularly honored are far less common today. Sales people now greet customers with “Happy Holidays,” and commercial signs read “X-Mas” instead of acknowledging the coming of the Christ child. I also regret the speed with which our culture moves today. Unless we resist this breathless pace of living, it will lead us to ignore the meaning of Christmas and miss its uniqueness in human experience.
I encourage each of you to join us in giving priority to our faith, family, and fellowship as we celebrate Christmas this year. If you still have young ones in your home, I tell you sincerely that they will be grown and on their own before you know it. The advent of Christmas gives us a powerful tool with which to teach the next generation about Jesus Christ and explain why He came to Bethlehem on a midnight clear.
When our two children were small, my wise mother told Shirley and me repeatedly that raising them would be the happiest and most meaningful period of our lives. Indeed, it was. I guess that is why the arrival of the “empty nest” 18 years later hit me hard. It signaled the passing of an era that I cherished. It is also why I have a special empathy for infertile couples and others who wanted desperately to get married and raise children, but never found that one person in all the world to love. We must remember to include these folks in our family festivities so they can enjoy the fellowship of friends of all ages.
This leads me to another thought that I want to share with you in this, my final letter of the year. When I left academia more than 40 years ago, it was because I recognized that the institution of the family was unraveling. When I think about our culture today, I am grieved to see the dysfunctional families around us and the unhappy people they produce. Stated another way, there is an alarming increase in mental illness that is undeniable to those who are paying attention. Thankfully, this development has drawn the attention of leaders who might be in a position to help.
Our President, Donald J. Trump, and his senior officials are among those who have expressed this concern. Last month, on November 8, a White House Summit on mental illness was convened in Washington, D.C. I was invited to this event, along with 80 other mental health specialists. They included psychiatrists, psychologists, sociologists, physicians, and other mental health workers. Each of them was a professing Christian, and I knew these men and women from our previous professional experiences together.
One of the organizers of the event, my colleague, Dr. Tim Clinton, said this in his opening remarks: “We have come together today with other national leaders in the mental health field to discuss the many serious issues and challenges we are facing, such as the Opioid Crisis, the epidemic of suicide among the young, the scourge of pornography, random acts of violence, the myriad of issues facing our soldiers and military families, chronic alcohol and substance abuse, domestic violence, human sex trafficking, cohabitation, fatherlessness, the deterioration of the family, sexual abuse, and bullying.”
Clearly, the challenges are overwhelming. Often, violence and mental illness are very close neighbors. Let me remind you that the tragic and horrific shootings recently in Las Vegas and in Sutherland Springs, Texas, were carried out by mentally disturbed individuals. In fact, the perpetrator in Texas had escaped from a mental health facility in 2012. What it comes down to is this: huge numbers of people in America and other western nations are desperately sick. There is also a prevailing spiritual illness that infects humankind.
These mental disorders are certainly not new. In fact, as I was preparing to make my opening remarks at the White House Summit, it struck me that I had stood in that place before. In 1984, nearly 34 years ago, I was invited by the Reagan Administration to address a gathering of 150 leaders on the serious challenges facing the American family. I had stood about 20 feet from where I spoke last month, discussing many of the same problems that plague us in this day and age. Unfortunately, the issues are far more dangerous and life-threatening now than in Reagan’s era. We must get serious about what we are doing to our children and to the institution of the family. That is our mission.
The pace, pain, and pressure of modern day life have clearly taken over. We need to pray that the church will awaken and take her rightful place. Until then, para-church organizations have to stand in the gap. Is an awakening in America possible? Could this happen in the year that marked the 500th anniversary of The Reformation? It all depends on what we do with the opportunity that has been given to us.
Would it be self-serving to tell you that this nation needs organizations such as Family Talk? We don’t have all the solutions for the vast unraveling of the social order, but we do have some of them. We are committed to reviving the individual family unit. We are not newcomers to this task. I have been working on it since 1970, and I am surrounded by a wonderful staff of highly trained and dedicated people who love the Lord and His cause. We also care about your family.
Will you consider giving us a helping hand at the end of this year? We feel called to this task, but we can’t accomplish it without financial assistance from our friends.
If you feel led to join our mission, let us hear from you. I rarely ask you to contribute, but our need at this time is urgent. Thank you for joining us as 2017 draws to a close.
Merry Christmas, All,
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