Catholic Culture Podcasts
Catholic Culture Podcasts

Obama's Christmas story

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Jan 06, 2010

Visting with little boys and girls in Washington, President Obama asked why we celebrate Christmas. The whole exchange is revealing, but one snippet in particular caught my attention:

Child: I know!

President: Do you know?

Child: The birth of baby Jesus.

President: The birth of baby Jesus, and what he symbolizes for people all around the world is the possibility of peace and people treating each other with respect….

Is that why you celebrate Christmas, Mr. President? Because it’s not what I’m celebrating.

The baby Jesus doesn’t “symbolize” anything at all. A tree might act as a symbol. A star might act as a symbol. Words on paper act as symbols. But the Incarnate God does not act as a symbol.

While I celebrate the birth of Jesus, do you celebrate what Jesus means to other people? If so, then you have already shifted the focus: from the action of the Almighty, taking flesh and joining our human race, to the emotional reactions of his creatures. You’ve moved from the most astonishing event in human history to the mundane contemplation of warm fuzzy feelings.

The infant Jesus doesn’t symbolize; He acts. The Nativity is astonishing because with the birth of Christ, God takes the lead on a stage that is, ordinarily, only patrolled by human actors.

When God wanted to send us a symbol, He showed Noah the rainbow. When He wanted to show us his love, He sent his Son. The rainbow—so spectacular in itself—pales in the light of this new revelation.

Look at the face of Christ, Mr. President. You won’t find a symbol. You’ll find much more. 

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: samuel.doucette1787 - Jan. 12, 2010 1:25 PM ET USA

    Yet more evidence that Obama 1) is not a true Christian; and 2) is more accurately filled with the spirit of anti-Christ (not the AC himself, though) because he wants to water down the essential truth of the Incarnation and put a fuzzy moral Jesus of "peace" in His place. How many more nominal Catholics will he continue to deceive?

  • Posted by: alencon - Jan. 12, 2010 11:01 AM ET USA

    Not only a symbol, but as I read somewhere (and I'm sorry but I can't remember who penned this and I am paraphrasing) - God's greatest deed when He sent His only Son into enemy territory to redeem fallen humanity. A direct intervention by God on our behalf.

  • Posted by: Solzy2004 - Jan. 08, 2010 9:02 PM ET USA


  • Posted by: skladach - Jan. 08, 2010 7:56 PM ET USA

    OMG! (And I use those initials reverently.) While working for a Ukrainian-American newspaper in the years immediately after the Velvet Revolution, I met a young Ukrainian couple who had just immigrated; she had been an English professor. When the season came, I wished them a Merry Christmas. She rolled her eyes (as though to imply, "Come on, we're all educated people here,") and said, "That's just a symbol!" Educated in what?!