Dear Friends,

It’s snowing. Lights are up. The colors and decorations across Grand Island are truly fantastic. I am especially grateful for all those who work for the Town and spent the last 6 months, first getting electric in the Town Hall Commons and second getting together and improving the decorations at Town Hall (and the roundabout!). It’s not perfect, but we did it on a budget. It really feels like a wonderland with the snow. It’s gotten me thinking about Christmas.

The real Christmas

If you have ever read the New Testament, it is powerful—especially the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, which tell different accounts of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. As a teenager, when I read those books for the first time, I remember putting down my Bible with a chest full of emotion. Writing this, I feel now what I felt then—thankfulness and and a desire to serve my fellow man. Maybe most powerful of all is the story of Christ’s birth in Matthew and Luke.

I appreciate and respect all of the world’s great religions—including the Muslim faith. If you don’t feel the same, you should consider visiting a mosque. You should consider befriending one of the billion plus Muslims (from Malaysia to Maryland) who believe their religion is one of temperance and self-discipline. They dread that some of have used “Islam” as some form of kerosene dumped on a fire of political and cultural division. Maybe I will write more on that later, and tell you about my Muslim friends who love this country.

A simple Savior

But I’m not Muslim. For me, Christianity resonates deepest. The story of Christ, the son of people in a foreign land so poor and friendless that they had to take refuge in a barn, is unlike any other among the great theologies. Mohammed was a mighty leader and warrior. Buddha was a prince. In the lost mythologies, Thor, the son of heaven, and Zeus were lighting gods.

But Jesus was a helpless infant, penniless, and dependent on the gifts of others to survive. Yet, as we sing and feel in our hearts, “The hopes and fears of all the years, were met” in that helpless and homeless child. As an adult, that infant did not rise to great glory on some battlefield or to some high political office. He was a man of the people who taught the world’s most controversial philosophy.

Do unto others

It’s a philosophy that we today, although many call ourselves a Christian nation, still feel uncomfortable embracing. No matter how you twist the scripture of the New Testament to justify the pursuit of materialism or demonization of your enemies, the real message of Jesus Christ is clear:

●      “Love thy neighbor as thyself,” (Mark 12:31);

●      “Gather not your riches upon the earth,” (Matthew 6:19);

●      “If a man strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other,” (Matthew 5:39); and 

●      “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (Matthew 5:44).”

But who is your Supervisor to preach? I certainly am no saint. I feel, maybe more than some, the anger and fury that comes when you feel you have been wronged. I’ve said it here: I’m a fighter. I have attempted to build wealth for myself and for others most of my adult life. But maybe I should not feel so proud of such things. In my most lucid and peaceful moments, it's the messages of Christ that resonates deep within me. 

His message across the nation

I hope we step away from being a country of Ebenezer Scrooges from “A Christmas Carol” and Mr. Potters from “It’s a Wonderful Life.” It’s easy to view the less fortunate as welfare queens and degenerate loafers. It’s easy to adopt an I-deserve-more mentality. We cannot change the world (or ourselves) in one day. We can take baby steps to be slower to judge, quicker to forgive, and more caring toward those who need it most. We can do an act of kindness for someone each day leading up to Christmas.

Christ in neighbors

Today I remember with great gratitude a man who did just that for my family long ago. I want to thank to one of my mentors and the man I was given by middle name in honor of, Douglas Bunker, who died this year. Doug was a brilliant man, and a professor at UB. He treated me with great respect, despite my less-than-wealthy upbringing, and on numerous occasions played a bit of an Abel Magwitch role for me, helping out behind the scenes.

Every Christmas Eve Mr. Bunker would visit my humble home, and secretly place a box of oranges, nuts, and turkey on the front porch. My mother depended on that delivery. I would wait quietly, watching, like a child waiting to see Santa Claus, as Mr. Bunker would quietly make his way to our home and up the icy steps with his box of love. In the box he would place a note — “From Santa Claus”

 God bless you, Doug. We know it was you. We know it was Christ with you.

Warmest regards,

Nate D. McMurray