Could it be me, or are candy canes more popular than ever this Christmas? I made a recent trip back east to celebrate my aunt’s 90th birthday. We stayed an extra day to attend church with her. Much to my surprise, the men at the party and many in the service were wearing candy canes on their shirts and jackets. All were inverted in the shape of a “J” for Jesus.
For that we can thank Jennifer Sinclair, the principal at Manchester Elementary School in Omaha, Nebraska, who attempted to rid her school of all things religious before Christmas. She sent a memo to her staff outlining a list of unacceptable holiday items which included the candy cane because, she argued, “Historically, the shape is a ‘J’ for Jesus. The red is for the blood of Christ, and the white is a symbol of his resurrection.”
Liberty Counsel, a national organization dedicated to preserving religious freedom, fired off a letter to the district superintendent pointing out that the ban showed “hostility toward Christianity” and violated the district’s own policy, which allows teaching about religion. As a result, the principal sent out a letter of apology to parents and was placed on administrative leave.
This story about the candy cane is news to most Christians who have regarded the things as nothing more than sweet treats. Its likely source was a choirmaster in Germany who, in 1670, gave them to children to quiet them during the Christmas Eve service. To justify the candy, he had them bent into a crook to remind the children of the shepherds who visited Jesus. Now, thanks to Ms. Sinclair, this humble candy has been elevated and given new meaning.
Stamp out Christianity? It will never happen.
This reminds me of Acts 5 where the apostles were arrested for teaching about Jesus at the Temple. They were thrown in jail. But an angel of the Lord came at night, opened the gates, brought them out and told them to go back to the Temple and keep teaching. Then, they were hauled before the high council where the high priest confronted them. “Didn’t we tell you never again to teach in this man’s name?” he demanded. Peter answered, “We must obey God rather than any human authority.”
The high council was furious and decided to kill them, but one highly respected member of the council, an expert in Jewish law named Gamaliel, wisely said this: “ My advice is, leave these men alone. Let them go. If they are planning on doing these things merely on their own, it will soon be overthrown but if it is from God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You may even find yourselves fighting against God.”
To borrow the words of James A. Francis from his 1926 sermon “One Solitary Life,”
Here is a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another obscure village. He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty, and then for three years He was an itinerant preacher.
He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never owned a home. He never had a family.
He never went to college. He never put his foot inside a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place where He was born. He never did one of the things that contemporary society would consider a sign of greatness.
He had no credentials but Himself. He had nothing of this world, only the power of His divine manhood. While still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against Him.
His friends ran away. One of them denied Him; another betrayed Him. He was turned over to His enemies. He went through the mockery of a trial.
He was nailed to a cross between two thieves. While He was dying, His executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had on earth—His coat. When He was dead, He was taken down and laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.
Twenty centuries have come and gone, and today He is the centerpiece of the human race, the greatest source of guidance and divine inspiration.
I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, and all the navies that ever were built, and all the parliaments that ever sat, and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as that one solitary life—Jesus!
Merry Christmas and pass the candy canes!