The January 6 Committee of the US House of Representatives voted yesterday to send referrals to the Justice Department recommending that former President Donald Trump be criminally prosecuted.
The House Select Committee referrals include obstructing an official proceeding of Congress, conspiracy to defraud the federal government, making a false statement, and inciting, assisting, or aiding and comforting an insurrection. However, the committee’s criminal referral holds no official legal weight. Attorney General Merrick Garland and the Justice Department will determine whether to pursue the charges.
As often happens with political news, what you thought before you read the story likely determines what you think after you read the story.
In this case, Mr. Trump’s supporters will point to the fact that the committee was composed of seven Democrats and two anti-Trump Republicans. In their view, this is just another example of partisan witch-hunting at its worst. Mr. Trump’s detractors will counter that the committee’s findings deserve attention regardless of the political affiliations of its members and claim that his actions on January 6 threatened the future of our democracy.
The coldest Christmas in forty years
Meanwhile, many of us are focused on arctic weather that will blast much of America this week, threatening holiday travel and bringing the coldest Christmas in forty years to the Midwest. Some areas will see wind chill temperatures that could cause frostbite in as little as five minutes. About fifty-five million people will experience temperatures at zero degrees Fahrenheit or below during the next seven days.
In other news, soccer fans (except in France, which lost to Argentina) are still celebrating what is being called “the best World Cup final ever.” Football fans are worried about injuries to their star players as the playoffs approach; baseball fans are following the “biggest free-agent frenzy ever.”
I could go on, but you get the point: all news is ultimately local. We pay the greatest attention to what feels the most personally relevant to us. If I were traveling for Christmas, I would be far more focused on airport travel alerts than on political news in Washington.
Here’s the problem with such self-focused existentialism: what matters most to us is not always what stands before us.
For example, USA Today reports that experts “are highly confident the West Coast could at any moment face disasters with the destructive power to kill hundreds or thousands of people and forever change the lives of millions more.” As a result, they are working to bring together seismologists, engineers, emergency responders, and social scientists to prepare for the crisis before it comes.
Similarly, the House January 6 committee’s referrals are far more significant than the everyday political gamesmanship to which we have become accustomed. This is the first time in history that Congress has recommended criminal charges against a former president. If Mr. Trump is found guilty as charged, the consequences will be monumental. By contrast, if he is found to be the victim of a partisan witch-hunt, the months of time and millions of dollars spent by the committee will be not only a terrible waste of taxpayer resources but an indication of the perilous depth of our partisan divide.
As I noted, what matters most to us is not always what stands before us.
What Jesus said at Hanukkah
Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, began Sunday evening. In honor of the holiday, a newly crafted menorah was unveiled and is the first ever to be added to the White House collection.
This event is also known as the Feast of Dedication; according to John 10, Jesus attended this celebration. It was here that he made his great declaration: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one” (vv. 27–30).
However, what matters most to us is not always what stands before us.
The skeptics who heard Jesus’ words complained that he, “being a man, make yourself God” (v. 33). Despite his miraculous works demonstrating his divinity (vv. 37–38), “they sought to arrest him” (v. 39) when they should have sought to worship and serve him. Then they would have received the eternal life and present-day security only he can give.
Our secularized culture is making the same mistake as it celebrates Christmas while ignoring Christ. So will we unless we take intentional steps every day to focus on the miracle in the midst of the mundane.
Smoke in your eyes
Travel back to Bethlehem with me. Join the shepherds in their wonder. Feel the fire as it warms the cave and its smoke stings your eyes. Now draw closer. Gaze upon the peasant girl cradling her tiny infant in the protecting shelter of her carpenter husband.
And realize anew that this newborn baby is Immanuel, literally “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). Envision the glory of heaven he left for the humility of this stable. Remember that he was born to die and that he would do it all again, just for you. Now give him the worship of your heart and the service of your best.
What matters most is what stands before you right now.
What Child is this, who, laid to rest, on Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet, while shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King, whom shepherds guard and angels sing;
Haste, haste to bring him laud, the Babe, the Son of Mary.
Will you “bring him laud” today?
NOTE: By December 31, Denison Forum must reach a $3.3 million goal to end the year strong—so we can help more Christians like you live out their faith in a culture that seeks to silence us more and more. So please help reach the year-end goal, knowing that your gift will do so much to empower this movement of culture-changing Christians. Thank you.