Christmas Past and Persisting in Hope

Thomas Griffin 12/31/20

Newt Gingrich is the former Speaker of the House (1995-1998) and was a Republican candidate for president (2012) who occasionally writes opinion pieces for several media outlets. He recently wrote two pieces for Fox News highlighting the fact that our beloved country has seen worse than 2020 and will rise from the ashes of this year in a similar fashion to previous generations if authentic hope prevails. 

Gingrich now serves as the chairman of Gingrich 360 which devotes countless hours and resources to consulting and educating Americans concerning their past, present and future through creatively dynamic media production. Newt’s most recent columns showcase what Gingrich 360 accomplishes in a nutshell: when we know who we are and where we’ve come from, we will know how to conquer the present moment. With the year we have had in the Catholic Church and the separation we have felt from in-person worship, we can apply the same principles in the light of faith.

On Christmas day he released a piece entitled, “COVID Christmas isn’t our first facing hard times. We recovered before, we’ll recover again” recounting the fact that the American project was fostered by a group of rebel militia who knew that they must hope for a better future. They were against all odds, but dreamed to hope, nevertheless. 

Our current state of affairs are similar to wartime realities. From the frozen tundra of Valley Forge and the Christmas Day crossing of the Delaware River in 1776 to the bittersweet Christmas feasts following the Civil War in 1865 to the Christmas holiday enjoyed in the shadows of the valley of death during the 1918 Spanish flu (much deadlier than the coronavirus). Americans continued on because that is who we are when we (human beings) are at our best. We never give up because we are born of a hope which cannot be destroyed. 

Gingirch came out with another masterpiece a few days later entitled “As year of coronavirus nears its end, maintain hope and believe in triumph of human spirit” which focuses on how true hope leads, not to naivete, but to a better world. That is what our country’s past teaches us and that is what the Christian message is at Christmas. The child born to us is the fulfillment of all hope and the answer to all our world’s problems. Faith ushers us forth to see that without hope we become swallowed up by the darkness.

A main portion of Gingrich’s insights here comes from the Nobel Prize speech in Literature given by William Faulkner in 1950. Among the major topics sewn throughout is the correct understanding of the immortal hope of the human spirit. “I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail,” says Faulkner. Not simply because we are the strongest of animals or are the only creatures with a voice, but because humanity “has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance.” 

Writers, authors, and poets aid human beings in “lifting up their spirits” to peer into this often overlooked truth regarding who we are and what we are made for. This is done through evoking the memory of past events while showing that the past is not dead. Profound literature inspires mankind “by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past.” This glorious past is not dead, but alive because of the immortal spirit present in each of us which can change the tide of the future. 

The Nobel laureate continues with the line which provides insight for his passion for literature. “The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.” No one is called to merely live through tragedy and loss and challenge, but to become triumphant despite the trials because this is what the soul created by God does. We must prevail and we must become pillars for others to lean on. 

In a year where we have been forced to flee from each other’s company and from our careers, in a year when we can no longer shake hands or can only view 20% of our neighbors face, and in a year which has seen a tremendous number of deaths and division we must come together in a hope which is not baseless but that resounds down through the ages. 

We are made of a hope which persists beyond the generations and we are founded upon the blood, sweat, and tears of a nation which dares to dream that the worst is behind us. As we enter 2021, do not be afraid to hope and to dream that the travesties of this year will leave us. Remember where we have come from and recall that the human spirit cannot die when its character, faith, and sacrifice is seen for what it truly is. 

Thomas Griffin teaches at a Catholic high school on Long Island and lives with his wife and son. He received a master’s degree in theology and is currently a master’s candidate in philosophy. He writes for several Catholic media outlets.

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