The apex of the York Rite is the Knights Templar. We take the name Knights Templar not out of any claim of descendants or lineage, but rather as a commemoration of those Christian knights. This organization leaves the conventional story of the Symbolic Degrees and transitions us into the Christian knighthoods. A Commandery of Knights Templar does not confer degrees, but rather orders of knighthood. Unlike other Masonic bodies, including the Royal Arch and Cryptic Masons, which don't have specific religious requirements, one must be a Christian to join the Templars. Every local Commandery is encouraged to hold a Christmas Observance in December. This is a joyous occasion to celebrate the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, the Savior of Mankind. The Christmas Observance is one of my favorite Templar activities as it allows us to bring together Sir Knights, Companions, Brothers, family, friends, and guests to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.
This custom began in 1876 when the first Knights Templar Christmas Toast was proposed by Sir Knight Stephen Berry, Past Commander of Portland Commandery No.2 in Maine, where he later served as the Grand Recorder of the Grand Commandery of Maine from 1892 to 1917. He started the custom when he invited other Grand Commanderies to “drink a toast at noon on Christmas Day in expressing the fine sentiments typical of the great order and its allegiance to the Great Captain of Our Salvation.” It went worldwide and encouraged Sir Knight Berry, in 1885, to broaden the scope of the toast and he was encouraged to request all Sir Knights to join in on Christmas Day at noon, in a libation pledging loyalty and obedience to the Most Eminent Grand Master. This began a custom of Christmas Observance of uniting a Fraternal Embrace on Christmas Day, at noon (Eastern Standard Time). Several Grand Commanders issued invitations to all subordinates in their jurisdictions, and from Maine to Texas, Massachusetts to Oregon and California, at the witching hour, the Templar’s rose simultaneously to honor the sentiment and the response. From there the Christmas Observance became a custom in all jurisdictions albeit that the Grand Commanderies could adjust the day and time of the toasts to bring about more attendance.
Today I attended the Christmas Observance of Twin Falls Commandery No. 10 in Jerome, ID. After a welcome by the Eminent Commander, the "old, old story" was read which tells the prophecy and birth of the Christ child according to the Old and New Testaments.
I read the Toast of the Grand Encampment Committee on Religious Activity and a Toast to the Most Eminent Grand Master was given. Toasts to the Most Worshipful Grand Master of Masons of Idaho, Most Excellent Grand High Priest of Royal Arch Masons of Idaho, Most Illustrious Grand Master of Cryptic Masons of Idaho, Right Eminent Grand Commander of Knights Templar of Idaho, and their responses were also given. I had the pleasure of representing the Right Eminent Grand Commander as he is currently out of the state. Now for the drive home to get everything ready for Christmas Day.
I’d like to end this article with a quote from James Allan Francis:
“Here is a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another obscure village, where He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty, and then for three years He was an itinerant preacher. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never owned a home. He never had a family. He never went to college. He never put his foot inside a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place where He was born. He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but Himself. He had nothing to do with this world except the naked power of His divine manhood. While still a young man, the tide of public opinion turned against Him. His friends ran away. One of them denied Him. He was turned over to His enemies. He went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves. His executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had on earth while He was dying—and that was his coat. When he was dead He was taken down and laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend. Nineteen wide centuries have come and gone and today He is the centerpiece of the human race and the leader of the column of progress. I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, and all the navies that ever were built, and all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned, put together have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has that One Solitary Life.”
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