Commencement Address, December 12, 2015
Dr. Everett Piper, President
Oklahoma Wesleyan University
I am very fond of C.S. Lewis and I love his children’s stories. One of my favorites is from the Chronicles of Narnia. It is a scene from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which was made into a feature film a few years ago to much acclaim. It is the story of Father Christmas, Lucy, her siblings, and Mr. and Mrs. Beaver as they stand fearful and confused in the cold, frozen tundra of the White Witch’s kingdom.
If you recall, the children entered the magic of Narnia through the portal of the professor’s wardrobe, and as they did, they found themselves in a winter wonderland of sorts. It is white and cold. The trees have been dusted with frost. The lamppost glows somberly in a windless forest, blanketed with snow. At first glance, this all seems beautiful – but there is something missing. This land is nearly lifeless and the few creatures the children do encounter (the fauns, the centaurs, the beavers, etc.) seem fearful, suspicious and nearly paranoid. There is no joy.
By way of explanation, the beavers tell the children that Narnia is under the spell of an evil Witch. Everything is pale. Everything is cold. Every moment is governed by fear rather than hope. Every day is as if it is “always winter but never Christmas.” This is the dreadful description of life under the Witch’s rule. There is no hope to wish for and there is no peace to pursue. Belief has been lost. This is simply a land of doubt and despair.
But this isn’t the end of the story. You see, in the midst of Mr. Beaver’s description of the evil spell, the children hear sleigh bells ringing in the distance. At first, they are sure this is the sound of the Witch’s return, and they hide.
But it isn’t the Witch at all. No, the driver of the sleigh is a great, glad, giant of a man dressed all in red and white. It is Father Christmas! “I have broken through at last,” he says. “She has kept me out for a long time, but her magic is weakening.”
Lucy and her siblings shiver with excitement. Father Christmas has come! And he not only brings presents, he brings peace. He not only offers cookies and cream, but love and compassion. He brings music and he brings a message: “Aslan is on the move!” he shouts. The great lion, the son of the Emperor beyond the sea, has come to set all wrongs to right. “A Merry Christmas! Long live the true King!”
Today, many of us shiver as we try to shelter ourselves from the freezing winds of nightly news. Violence and suffering in the Middle East: always winter but never Christmas. San Bernardino, Roseburg, Paris, and Fort Hood: always winter but never Christmas. ISIS, Boko Haram, and Al Qaeda; Human trafficking, sexual slavery, Islamic intolerance and Sharia oppression: always winter but never Christmas. Christians beheaded abroad and subjected to judicial tyranny at home; political arrogance, governmental corruption, and the loss of individual liberty: always winter but never Christmas… The list seems endless.
But in the face of such cold winds, perhaps we would do well to remember the news of long ago when light shone on the hills of Bethlehem and a different Father Christmas arrived singing a new song. “Do not be afraid.” He declared in a booming and confident voice, “For behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy.” And on that night, winter began to melt away, and Christmas sprang alive in a stable under the stars and the human race was challenged to believe.
As you graduate today, I challenge you to Believe….
Believe what Oklahoma Wesleyan University has taught you. Believe in its Mission. Believe in its Message.
Believe in the Bible – That it is timeless. Not transient. That it is inspired. Not constructed. That it is accurate. Not relative. That it is not to be added to nor subtracted from. That it is to be hidden in your heart and proclaimed with your mouth. That it is given by inspiration and breathed by God himself. That it is the inerrant, infallible, and authoritative written word of God that guides us in all matters of faith, learning and living.
Believe in Practicing Wisdom – Practice what you preach. Be men and women of integrity. “Work out your faith with fear and trembling… Not as though you have already attained all this… If you love him, you will obey him… What good is it if you call him Lord and do not do what he says? Show me your faith without deeds and I will show you mine by what I do…” Remember the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer: that “only those who believe obey but only those who obey believe.”
Believe in Truth—the Logos, Natural Law—the revelation of God. Understand that there are self-evident truths that no human being can deny. Believe that such truths are revealed by God not constructed by man, that they are objective and attainable, immutable and constant. Believe that truth gives salvation to the damned and freedom to the slave. Be energized by the unapologetic pursuit of truth. Wherever it leads, be confident in the words, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” Freedom: the antithesis of slavery; Slavery: the unavoidable outcome of lies—Lies about who we are as people, lies about what is right and what is wrong, lies about man, and lies about God.
Believe in Christmas! It is Christ’s mass! Not Buddha’s mass. Not Mohammed’s mass. Not Krishna’s mass. It’s not Wall Street’s or Washington’s. It is Christ’s mass! We can commercialize it, homogenize it, politicize it and compromise it but in the end the bottom line is this: The word means something! It means you can Believe in the Primacy of Jesus Christ and that he is the beginning and the end, the way the truth and the life, the great I AM, the Word made flesh, Emanuel: God with us; your savior and your king, your Lord and your God, the Lion of Judah and the Lamb of God, your redeemer, your guide, your peace, your joy, your comfort, your life, your light! Believe in Christmas: that He is born incarnate and risen eternal: the Son of God, the alpha and omega, the lens of all learning and the Lord of our daily lives.
“I have broken through at last,” cries Christmas. “She has kept me out for a long time but her magic is weakening. This is a time of love not hatred, giving not getting, goodness not greed. Believe! Believe that light always diminishes darkness, warmth always melts what is cold, and the Son is always stronger than winter. Believe that Aslan is on the move. “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord . . . He is the light of men. He shines in the darkness . . . and he has made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Hilaire Belloc says it well: “Do not… be troubled about the increase of forces already in dissolution. You have mistaken the hour of the night. It is already morning!”
Today on your graduation day, leave this university as Believers!
Believe in the Primacy of Jesus Christ
Believe in the Priority of Scripture
Believe in the Pursuit of Truth
Believe in the Practice of Wisdom!
Believe what The Song of Solomon tells us:
For lo, the winter is past,
The rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth,
The time of singing has come.
Believe in Christmas!
A Merry Christmas and Happy graduation to all!
He has broken through at last! Long live the True King!