Friday, December 25, 2009

A Christmas Reflection

Christmas Day has visited us again.It is interesting that Christmas, the day that commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, has joined that select two or three Holidays in the course of the year ( Thanksgiving and New Years are two others that come to mind) where retail life comes to a virtual standstill ---except for the NBA and the ubiquitous Chines restaurant. Christmas is as secular a Holiday as we have in modern day America. This Holiday, embraced by almost all, is of recent vintage however.

Christmas wasn't institutionalized as a Church Feast until the mid 4th Century. Even then, the major Feast celebrated was the Feast of the Epiphany ---the Baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist--- commemorated on January 6. The celebration of Christmas was banned by the British Parliament in 1647 and even though the celebration was restored by Charles II in 1660, the Presbyterian Church of Scotland continued to discourage celebrating the Feast. This antipathy carried over to the British colonies in the New World. The celebration of Christmas was actually banned in Boston from 1659-1681. The venerable George Washington led his troops in an attack on the Hessian troops at the Battle of Trenton 1777. These historical tid-bits add to my amusement at some of the current arguments about whether we are taking Christ out of Christmas in our modern world.

One of the most common images of the Nativity is the manger scene, the "babe in swaddling clothes". While this imagery is accurate, I believe that too much of a focus on " the baby Jesus" almost softens the awesomeness of this Feast.

We Christians believe, that this Jesus, born in Bethlehem is the Son of God, the Word of God, through whom all of creation was made. How awesome is that!!! John, in his Gospel says it this way:

[1] In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
[2] The same was in the beginning with God.
[3] All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
[4] In him was life; and the life was the light of men.

This same Jesus we so sentimentally think of as the "babe in the manger" was with God the Father before the Creation of the world. This Word of God spoke with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the Book of Genesis. Gave the Law to Moses and spoke with David as well as the Prophets. The mere thought of the Word of God taking on flesh and becoming like us is incomprehensible, ineffable, inconceivable. It's almost too much to take in . As presents our opened and greetings of the season are exchanged the "big picture" of the Feast is worth a quiet reflection.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Taxes--history says they are going up.

Wow! I came across the chart above on Jim Sinclair's site. It's hard to believe that we went from a 25% marginal tax rate in 1930 to 79% in 1940. That was all done smack in the face of the Great Depression. It sure looks like we could be looking at a repeat of history and from where I sit that would not be a good thing. Given the poor state of the American household balance sheet, a tax increase like the one above would decimate what is left of our consumer economy. It's a conundrum our leaders wish they could avoid if at all possible. Kick the can down the road, that is the politicians way.

Take a look at the tax rate for the war years 1941-45 --- a jump up to 94%. Can you imagine a 94% tax rate? That is the definition of shared sacrifice. While I am not a fan of higher tax rates, I believe that if we as a country decide that war is necessary we should also be prepared to pay for it. 90% + tax rates might put a damper on some of the banging war drums.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Paper Money

I stumbled across an interesting article while browsing on Jim Sinclair's site last night. The article is entitled :

Here's a snippet that really needs to be read more than once:
The chart above shows how the purchasing power of the dollar has declined in real money – gold – in the last 10 years. And if we take the period from 1909 to 2009 it shows the total destruction of paper money. In 1909, $1,000
bought 50 ounces of gold. Today it buys 0.83 ounces. This means that in the last 100 years the dollar has declined by 98.3% against gold. So in real money terms
the dollar is now only worth 1.7% of what it was worth a
century ago. Thus, the US government (as well as most other governments) has totally destroyed the value of real money by issuing unlimited amounts of paper money and in the next
few years they will also kill off the remaining 1.7% of value to make the paper dollar reach its intrinsic value of zero.
This silent devaluation of our wealth is a brutal , almost hidden tax that the masses continue to be oblivious to.