Convivium was a project of Cardus 2011‑2022, and is preserved here for archival purposes.
He Came to Shoulder Our BurdensHe Came to Shoulder Our Burdens

He Came to Shoulder Our Burdens

Ray Pennings
3 minute read

In our current era, religion is presumed to be personal. Politeness is warped into shallowness; substantial sentiments are risky and may offend. Publicly, Christmas is nothing more than a seasonal holiday. Its religious roots are tolerated only because denying them would require a collective historical amnesia that we're not quite up to yet. Believing in Santa Claus is encouraged, especially when it contributes to the retail sector bottom line, and the holidays are an incentive for a moralistic encouragement to be nice to family, friends, and even strangers, whether we feel like it or not. Throw in a few pretty lights, sentimental songs, and some paid time off and the secular reasons for the season are basically exhausted.

If that is all that is allowed for a public celebration of Christmas, I think that I'll take a pass. Frankly, I don't feel up to it.

In part, the reasons are personal. My wife and I began the year with four living parents; we are ending it having buried two of them and we haven't really gotten through the weight of the grief. While we have many personal relationships that are wonderful and encouraging, there are a few that aren't what we wish they were no matter how hard we try, and the pain of not knowing how to fix them feels heavy.

I know my personal story isn't that unique. Most people I talk to carry similar burdens of grief. I suppose if taking some time off to drink or spend away sorrows had the power to make a positive difference, I might be tempted.

But there are plenty of public reasons to be discouraged too. Economic uncertainty and security threats, political disappointment and international upheaval—you can fill in the details. So why bother with Christmas this year? Wouldn't it be better to be honest with our secular selves, who insist that there is no shared religious language we should utilize in the public square, and just skip the faux celebration for this year? 

Cardus was formed to make the public case that 2,000 years of Christian social thought provides wisdom and insight on the issues of the day. We reject the secular premise that faith ought not to be talked about in public and that it is only a private matter for individuals to accept or reject as they see fit.

Most days, we fill these pages with argument and reason which implicitly or explicitly provide a link to a Christian perspective on the issues of the day. But the success of our mission isn't just captured by words. Our very existence is a testimony to the fact that not all accept the stripped-down version of argumentation which pretends that the only convincing truths are those that pass the muster of secular rationalism. We seek to embody a way of engaging and argumentation that isn't about power, but rather service; that seeks to promote an understanding of the common good and the well-being of all, not just ourselves.

And as we take a few days so that the staff of Cardus can enjoy some time with their families and loved ones, we do so not just as a politically correct adherence to a statutory holiday an employer provides to staff, but rather as a collective celebration of the hope that animates our work every day of the year.

Our burdens, individually and collectively, are real, but we take a few moments during this season to celebrate with Christian hope the reality that we do not need to carry our burdens alone. We take time to remember the birth of the Son of God as a baby to a virgin in a manger, serenaded by angels above Bethlehem's sky 2,000 years ago. Real history that we believe even though we cannot fully explain. Real hope that provides perspective on the challenges we face in life. Real gospel that encourages us when, humanly speaking, there doesn't always seem to be great reason for encouragement.

So on behalf of the Cardus board, staff, and community, let me wish you every joy of the Christmas season with our prayer that whatever heaviness you are carrying, you might find the comfort and rest that is offered by Him who came to "relieve your shoulders of the burden." (Psalm 81:6)

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