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SPOOF SPACEA Christmas thought: In 1949 Pulitzer Prize winning author and editor of The Wall Street Journal, the late Vermont Royster, wrote an editorial entitled, “In Hoc Anno Domini,” meaning, “In this the year of our Lord.” It has been published in the Christmas edition every year since 1949. It seemed somehow joyfully coincidental that during the season of Christmas I should stumble on a 2011 copy of that editorial recently while cleaning out my desk. The meaning of his article seems more poignant today than the day he wrote it considering the intolerance, oppression and evil in abundance throughout the world.

Royster’s message suggests Christmas is the season to find strength in the story of Paul who preached hope and the freedom of salvation through Christ, even under the bondage of Tiberius Caesar, the cruel ruler of their world. Caesar’s Roman Empire was oppressive, imposing laws and edicts for a society that was contemptuous of human life, where unimaginable persecution and punishment were commonplace.

In the midst of the darkness smothering individual freedom a light came into the world. The light, a man from Galilee, “... offered a new Kingdom in which each man could walk upright and bow to none but his God ... and he sent his gospel of the Kingdom of Man into ... the ends of the earth.” One of those towering messengers, Saul of Tarsus, later known as Paul, was converted by Christ on the road to Damascus, and began a journey of such evangelical magnitude that it changed the church’s impact on the then known world. Paul’s example stands today as one of the many reasons we are able to celebrate Christ at Christmas time.

Royster ends his article quoting a significant caveat by Paul to the Galatians, knowing that the forces of evil, like Caesar and other false prophets, can always threaten their freedom: “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.”

That Royster focused on Paul is recognition of Paul’s importance in the outreach of the early Christian Church, and its spread throughout the world in spite of Rome’s inquisition and persecution. The evangelical imperative that Paul so caringly pursued on Christ’s behalf was never more succinctly articulated than during his discussions with the Galatians regarding their laws. The words he used to express which law was important then, are echoed today as one of the many gifts that enrich the meaning of Christmas, – “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”