A Special Christmas Message From Our President And CEO

Full disclosure – it’s been quite some time since I’ve watched a full episode of the evening news. It’s not that I’m uninformed.  Like tens of millions of Americans, and perhaps just like you, my mobile news feed provides far more information from sources I know and trust, meaning the days are long gone when I count on networks to filter and present their particular versions of what they think I should know.  The same can be said of printed news.  As far as I can recall, the only newspaper I purchased this year was the Thanksgiving edition, and that was for the purpose of viewing ads for Black Friday sales, which turned out to be the same sales going on since late October.  That was a quick read.

So it was of little surprise to me when, just two weeks ago, I took a step of faith and tuned in to a local news broadcast in hopes of hearing something uplifting at the end of a year which has been anything but.  Less than ten minutes later, the experiment ended and the TV was off.  Even now, when we all need encouragement, comfort, and a reason to believe there’s more to life than perpetual chaos, the bad news is what we are forced to endure.  Even at Christmas.  Even at the time of year which has traditionally been the most joyous holiday for generations of Americans.

It’s almost as if a cancel culture world is turning its sights on what it hopes will finally extinguish the greatest cultural influencer in all of human history – the Child, born of a virgin, who came to give us all the only real hope we will ever have.

There is no surprise here.  For many decades, the perception of what Christmas means has shifted in American culture.  Some attempts to change the holiday’s name have not fared terribly well, such as changing the name of a Christmas tree to a “holiday” tree.  A more effective strategy has been to let the name of the holiday stand while rebranding it as a season of romance, snowflakes, and magical moments.   Call it what you will, as long as it doesn’t point to a Messiah, to the one named Jesus.

But to the more aggressive, the time has come to drive coffin nails into the manger, once and for all.

Others have tried to do the same for over two thousand years.  All of them have failed.

Now, if Christmas were a myth, if it were no more than a fantastic tale passed down from generation to generation, with no connection to historical truth, then Christmas indeed is in danger of being scrubbed in deference to, say, a winter solstice celebration.

But the truth of Christmas is far deeper than any myth might dare claim.

Who could have dreamed that after four hundred years of prophetic silence, a young virgin would be visited by an angel announcing she would be with child?

Who could have arranged for a Roman census to be issued resulting in Joseph, Mary, and the unborn baby Jesus traveling to Bethlehem and arriving just in time for the baby to be born?

Who could have supposed that a King would exchange His throne for a feeding trough?

Who could have ordered the night sky to be filled with heavenly hosts declaring the Savior had come?

Who could have chosen lowly shepherds, instead of the rich and the powerful, to be the first to receive the good news?

Who could have imagined the Child would change the world and fulfill over 300 prophecies?

Who could have dared to believe that the One, who at birth was wrapped in swaddling cloths, would one day be wrapped in a scarlet robe, beaten, stripped, scourged, crowned with thorns, and nailed to a cross?

Who could have known the entire mission of the baby born in Bethlehem, on that very first Christmas, was to pay sin’s debt in full for all who will believe in Him?

Who could have guessed the Creator of life would prove His power over death, for all eternity, by rising from the dead and leaving behind an empty tomb?

The stuff of mere myth?  Not for the apostles who physically walked with Him, knew Him, witnessed His resurrection, and gave their lives as martyrs.  No one does that for a myth.

Nor for the millions of believers throughout the centuries, up to the very hour you are reading this, who are outcast, beaten, imprisoned, and even killed for the sake of the One whose birth we celebrate on Christmas day.

Trying to cancel Christmas is nothing new.  Herod the Great, Nero, Stalin, Mao, and all tyrants like them have tried and failed, because Christmas is far greater than any of them ever comprehended.  Empires, and regimes come and go.  The truth and hope of Christmas still remains.

Can you cancel culture?  Maybe.  But you can never cancel the Truth the abides in hearts of all who believe.  You can’t cancel Christmas because you can’t cancel Jesus.

I don’t know what headlines will dominate tonight’s evening news, but I do know what a hurting world needs to hear, now more than ever:

Rejoice, for the Savior is come!

It is on this simple yet profound declaration that I place my hope this Christmas, and I sincerely hope that you do as well.

May you and your family have a blessed Christmas.

Mike Fichter
President and CEO

 

a special Christmas message from President and CEO Mike Fichter

Things I Don’t Understand About Christmas

It’s sort of funny the way life works out.  As a younger man I went through multiple phases during which I thought I had it all figured out.  But the longer I journey down life’s path, the more I realize just how much I really don’t understand.

I don’t understand why some people speed up, then slow down, then speed up again on interstates.

I don’t understand why so many people consider turn signals to be optional.

I don’t understand why homebuyers on HGTV feel compelled to renovate every room in a newly-purchased home, as opposed to buying a few gallons of paint and renting a carpet cleaner at Kroger.

I don’t understand the psychology of the incessant piano music in the background of Hallmark Christmas movies.

I don’t understand why so many people will go through life without ever visiting Montana.

I don’t understand why I have three hundred channels on TV and can’t find a single thing worth watching.

I don’t understand pickleball.

I don’t understand why, regardless of what I purchase at Kohl’s, I am always ten dollars away from the next Kohl’s Cash award.

When it comes to Christmas, there’s a whole lot I don’t understand as well.

I don’t understand why I can buy virtually anything in the world through eBay or Amazon, yet both of them combined pale in comparison to the appeal of the old Sears catalogue.  If you’re under 50, just trust me on this one.

I don’t understand why the 30-foot strands of lights that worked perfectly before being packed in the box after last Christmas didn’t work when taken out of that same box this year.

I don’t understand why Charlie Brown, Rudolph and Frosty are shown more than once per season.  Back in the day, if you missed those shows, you missed them. Tough luck until next year.

I don’t understand why Frosty Returns was ever made. Borderline criminal.

I don’t understand why I miss Ronco commercials so much.

I don’t understand why the opening riff of Jingle Bell Rock becomes more irritating each year.

I don’t understand the depth of disdain for fruitcake and eggnog.

I don’t understand the allure of figgy pudding.

I don’t understand why the Christmas mornings I remember the most are the ones on which we had the least amount of gifts under the tree.

I don’t understand why I didn’t spend more time at Christmas asking my grandparents about their lives, instead of engaging in so much small talk that barely scratched the surface. Those special opportunities are now gone forever.

I don’t understand why I can still remember so clearly what it felt like to fall asleep as a child in a candlelit church at midnight.

I can’t understand why Christmas Eve feels more peaceful than any other night of the year.

So many things that I just don’t understand.

I don’t understand why God chose a virgin teenage girl, from a remote village of no reputation, to bear the baby destined to turn the world upside down.

I don’t understand what Mary must have felt in her heart when she felt the Messiah’s tiny legs kick for the first time within her womb.

I don’t understand how Joseph had the strength to bear up under the laughter, gossip and scorn surrounding the surprise pregnancy of his betrothed.

I don’t understand how grueling it must have been for a mother nearing birth to journey over 70 miles of rough terrain from Nazareth to Bethlehem, even if there really was a donkey.

I don’t understand how there could be no room for them in the inn.

I don’t understand how a king who had it all would leave His throne to be born in the filth of a stable that was likely little more than a damp cave.

I don’t understand what it must have been like to hear God cry.

I don’t understand what it must have been like to see a pitch-black sky come alive with angelic hosts.

I don’t understand how beautiful the Star must have truly been.

I don’t understand the depth of worship the shepherds must have experienced as they fell to their knees in adoration of the newborn Christ.

I don’t understand the trembling that gripped Mary’s heart when Simeon looked deep into her eyes and prophesied of a coming sword that would pierce her very soul.

I don’t understand how the baby grew up to love, heal and forgive, only to be despised and rejected by the very ones He came to seek and to save.

I don’t understand how 33 years after that first Christmas Eve, the beautiful Lamb of God willingly gave Himself to be scourged, crowned with thorns, and nailed to a cross, all while the mother who bore Him in her womb, and nursed Him in that Bethlehem stable, surely sank to her knees in unspeakable grief.

I don’t understand how He could say, “Father forgive them, they know not what they are doing.” The baby born in Bethlehem, the baby born to die, had completed His mission.  It was finished.

No, I don’t understand these things, for they are too deep for me.

But I am thankful that I do understand this: the baby whose birth we celebrate on Christmas was the one, the only one, who could, and did, pay the penalty for our sin.  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life”.  He truly is the greatest Christmas gift of all time to all who will receive Him.

This is what I understand about Christmas.

May you have a blessed and joyous holiday season.

Mike Fichter
President and CEO