Our Christmas Heritage
Word on Washington
In the United States Capitol Building, there is a small room down the hall from the rotunda known as the Prayer Chapel. The room is illuminated by a beautiful stained glass window depicting George Washington kneeling in prayer at Valley Forge. In another room nearby is the famous painting of George Washington crossing the Delaware River on Christmas Night in 1776. These works of art serve as poignant reminders of our nation’s rich spiritual underpinnings, evident even in the earliest days of our history.
This Christmas, I am distinctly mindful of the commitment our founding fathers showed to pursuit of religious freedom. Our nation was established by leaders who understood the importance of faith as the bedrock of a society. In fact, 29 of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence held the equivalent of a seminary or Bible school degree, and many others of the signers were bold and outspoken in their personal faith. One need not look any further than our national motto, “In God We Trust,” or the phrase, “Under God,” in the pledge of allegiance to understand that the yarn of faith is intimately woven into our nation’s fabric.
In light of that strong tradition, I am honored to co-chair the Congressional Prayer Caucus, a bipartisan group of more than 100 Members of the House of Representatives who work to protect religious freedom in America and to preserve our nation’s rich spiritual heritage. This year, we have worked together to protect public prayer, preserve religious freedom for service members, and maintain the free speech right to display Christmas symbols during the holidays. In years past the Prayer Caucus was responsible for overturning the decision of the Architect of the Capitol to exclude, “In God We Trust” from the Capitol Visitors Center. The motto is now permanently carved into stone at the Visitors Center, for all to see.
As we reflect on these accomplishments, we are mindful of all that is to come in the next year. Next February, we look forward to holding the annual National Prayer Breakfast where more than 3,600 people of faith from across the world will gather together in Washington to pray for wisdom, reconciliation, and wellbeing for all God’s people.
Each year, on the night proceeding the prayer breakfast, several Members of Congress and I help to lead a “Spiritual Heritage Tour” of the US Capitol, observing the artifacts, statues, and rooms that illustrate the strong link between faith and those who shaped our country. This tour is one that I look forward to each year because it reaffirms our commitment to go to the Lord in prayer for wisdom and blessing as we seek to lead this great nation.
What an incredible privilege it is to live in a country where we have the right to practice our faith without fear of persecution, as our founders intended. However, we know that this freedom does not come without a price. This Christmas season let us all extend our warmest and most sincere gratitude to the men and women in uniform who protect our freedom both at home and abroad. As we reunite with friends and family this holiday season, we are mindful of those who have given up the comfort of their own homes and loved ones so that we can be with ours.
Christmas is a time where we give thanks for the blessings of the previous year while preparing for the challenges of the next. It is a season of great anticipation, hope, and joy for what lies ahead. And just like General Washington on that cold night over 200 years ago, I hope you will join me in taking time to pause and humbly beseech God for his strength and guidance for the journey ahead.
May God’s blessing be upon you and your family this Christmas and in the coming year.