Looking at Christmas cards. Seeing pictures of Mary and Joseph on the road, or in the stable with the baby. They did not get into the inn. They had to make the most of very rough conditions. Some thoughts occurred to me so I decided to share.
Even if they had gotten into Herod’s palace, or even somehow became the guests of Caesar himself, what I have here is unimaginably superior. In my modest house (it’s old, and it’s drafty, and it’s not that big) I have: insulation and central heating, hot and cold running water, flush toilets, electric power, telephone, internet, cooking gas, refrigerated and frozen food, medicine as needed in the cabinet, more than sufficient clothing, a piano, and 5,000 or so books. I can communicate with anyone I want to anywhere in the world instantly. I am within walking distance of two pharmacies where I can get antibiotics if needed. I and my children are a short drive away from emergency medical care. Dentists and physicians know about germs, and soap, and can give me anesthesia. If I had to, I could get in my car and drive anywhere in North America in a matter of hours or days. If I absolutely had to, I could get on a plane and go almost anywhere in the world within hours or at most days. This is wealth beyond the wildest dreams of Caesar, or Herod, or Charlemagne, or Louis XIV, or Queen Victoria.
There is no immediate prospect of a hostile group or gang, or my own rulers, driving me out of my home, taking my stuff by force, or murdering me or my family. If I have a dispute, I have enforceable rights, though the system is far from perfect. I am in no immediate danger of attack for practicing my religion. I can possess lethal force to defend myself and my family. I can vote, speak, publish, protest, petition, assemble, meet and organize to have an impact on the government I live under, without much likelihood of personal danger. Political disagreements, even over matters of great consequence, rarely lead to blows. This is a level of freedom and security which has been known to a tiny fraction of one percent of the people who have ever lived.
I have gratitude to all who came before us and gave this to us. And there are many defects and failures and challenges ahead for us, and much of what we have could be lost, and some of it is in the process of being lost. But we have it good, and even better things are within our grasp. Let’s keep it going.