The “war on Christmas” has come to an end in Tulsa this year. For nearly 90 years, residents in Tulsa commemorated the Christmas season with one large parade downtown, but in 2011, local leaders decided to jump on an unfortunate national trend of removing the word “Christmas” from the event.
After 40 years of riding a horse in the parade, I joined many others and said that if Christ wasn’t welcome, then I also would no longer be participating in the event. This is because Christmas isn’t just a holiday that can be sugar-coated for the sake of political appeasement.
It is a day each year that serves as a symbolic and historical declaration of peace on earth and goodwill toward all.
This declaration began in the 8th century B.C. when prophets in ancient Israel foretold the coming messiah and the blessing he would be to the whole world. “For to us a child is born,” the prophet Isaiah said, “a son is given and his name will be Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God and Prince of Peace.” People waited in eager expectation for hundreds of years until the prince of peace, Jesus Christ, was born.
Throughout the 2,000 years since his birth, communities around the world as well as in our nation have given pause to recognize the one who has given us great hope for peace on earth.
In 1863, as America was in the midst of the Civil War, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote the now classic carol “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” in response to the news his son had been severely wounded in battle. His words navigated the pain of war that was unfolding within his family, yet Longfellow ends the song with the words of hope that we celebrate each season, “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep, the Wrong shall fail, the Right prevail, with peace on earth, goodwill to men.”
On a battlefield in 1914, in the throes of trench warfare between the British and the Germans and above the violence and horror of World War I, the sound of “Silent Night” rang across the field. Two warring armies set their weapons aside and ventured out of their trenches in a moment of shared humanity to celebrate Christmas. It was a brief recognition of the deep longing for peace on earth and goodwill to all, even an enemy.
Today, in the midst of war in the Middle East, small communities of faith that have endured insurmountable suffering are still coming together to celebrate during the Christmas season the promise and hope of peace.
Last year, the Daily Beast chronicled quiet celebrations in Syria. The article quotes a local female Syrian legislator who said she was working to revive Christmas celebrations as a way to usher peace into her community and send a message that “enough is enough” when it comes to the suffering that has wiped out over 200,000 people and displaced millions more.
Man will never find success in diluting Christmas into a “winter” or “holiday” festival. Whether a person recognizes the life-saving significance of Jesus Christ, the message of Christmas for peace on earth lies in the heart of all mankind. It’s a message we should all be embrace, especially as our world faces the greatest level of unrest that we have seen in generations.
I am proud to see the Tulsa parades make their peace this Christmas and join together for one large celebration. Jesus won, and I look forward to riding in the parade once again.
I hope this year will bring one of the largest turnouts as we celebrate the birth of Christ and together call for peace on earth and goodwill to all.
Editor’s note: This column, as provided to Tulsa Today by U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, also published in The Tulsa World.
Tulsa Today Publisher, David Arnett, was the official organizer of the Tulsa Christmas Parade in 2011 at Tulsa Hills and adds his best wishes for this year’s unified parade in Downtown Tulsa.
One minor correction: The downtown parade name was changed to omit “Christmas” in the title in 2009 at which time, Tulsans protested on the street. In 2010, those protests moved to the Tulsa City Council. In 2011, when the downtown group refused for the third year to return “Christmas” to the title, a new parade was held at Tulsa Hills with that name.
All dispute is now resolved. Merry Christmas.