One of the most respected TV journalists of my generation was Harry Reasoner (1923-1991). In what he would later call his commentary that caused the greatest public response, one that he wrote regarding Christmas, he shared these thoughts:
“The basis for this tremendous annual burst of gift buying and parties and near hysteria is a quiet event that Christians believe actually happened a long time ago. You can say that in all societies there has always been a midwinter festival and that many of the trappings of our Christmas are almost violently pagan. But you come back to the central fact of the day and quietness of Christmas morning – the birth of God on earth.
It leaves you with only three ways of accepting Christmas.
One is cynically, as a time to make money or endorse the making of it.
One is graciously, the appropriate attitude for non-Christians, who wish their fellow citizens all the joys to which their beliefs entitle them.
And the third, of course, is reverently. If this is the anniversary of the appearance of the Lord in this universe in the form of a helpless babe, then it is a very important day.
It is a startling idea, of course. My guess is that the whole story that a virgin was selected by God to bear His Son as a way of showing His love and concern for man is not an idea that has been popular with theologians. It’s a somewhat illogical idea, and theologians like logic almost as much as they like God. It’s so revolutionary a thought that it probably could only come from a God that is beyond logic, and beyond theology.
It has a magnificent appeal. Almost nobody has seen God, and almost nobody has any real idea of what He is like. And the truth is that among men the idea of seeing God suddenly and standing in a very bright light is not necessarily a completely comforting and appealing idea.
But everyone has seen babies, and most people like them. If God wanted to be loved as well as feared, He moved correctly here, if He wanted to know His people as well as rule them. If God wanted to be intimately part of man, He moved correctly, for the experiences of birth and familyhood are our most intimate and precious experiences.
So it goes beyond logic. It is either all falsehood or it is the truest thing in the world. It’s the story of the great innocence of God the baby – God in the form of man – and it has such a dramatic shock toward the heart that if it is not true, for Christians, nothing is true.
So, if a Christian is touched only once a year, the touching is still worth it, and maybe on some given Christmas, some final quiet morning, the touch will take.”1
Mr. Reasoner gave another Christmas commentary that bears repeating. You can hear echoes – either prophetic or reflective – of what he wrote above. In part, this is what he said:
“Christmas is such a unique idea that most non-Christians accept it, and I think sometimes envy it. If Christmas is the anniversary of the appearance of the Lord of the Universe in the form of a helpless baby, it’s quite a day. It’s a startling idea, and the theologians, who sometimes love logic more than they love God, find it uncomfortable … It is either all falsehood or it is the truest thing in the world. It is the story of the great innocence of God, the baby, God in the power of man. And it is such a dramatic shot toward the heart that if it is not true, for Christians nothing is true. So, even if you have not got your shopping all done and you are swamped with the commercialism and the frenzy, be at peace … The story stands.”2
The Story Stands Indeed!
Throughout the world wherever the name of Christ is known, Christian people will gather to celebrate the birthday of their Lord and King. Throughout December, songs of praise and thanksgiving, anthems of adoration, and expressions of worship will be echoing in millions of hearts and homes. Why will the eyes of millions be fixed on that blessed manger scene where lies the baby Jesus? Because there we are reminded of God’s great love for us. So great was it “… that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16 NASB).
We need only remind ourselves of the horrifying and grave (no pun intended) danger we would all be in had there been no Christmas! Ever since sin, corruption, and death entered the human condition in the fall of our first parents, the human race has groaned under the evil rule and slavery of Satan – the most evil of taskmasters. All were spiritually without help, hope, or any future unless ransomed by the promised Savior! Then suddenly on that first Christmas night the heavens were unzipped with the amazing, startling message of the angel: “… for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:1 NASB). The ransom had arrived!
The love of God which sent a divine Redeemer to rescue a doomed humanity is still the only real and lasting source of today’s hope, peace and joy. For us, who in humble faith have received the Christ Child as our Savior and Redeemer, Christmas spells the difference between an eternity in the company of the prince of darkness and a glorious eternity before the throne of God in Heaven. There, we will be in the company of Him who loved us and redeemed us to be His own, and we will be with Him forever, even as He, Immanuel, has been with us.
Slow Down and Contemplate
Like many, you are possibly already beginning to feel the stress and anxiety that have become so much a part of the Advent/Christmas season. If so, take a few minutes to slow down and contemplate again the miracle of Christ’s first coming at Christmas: God loved you, God loved the world, so much that He came down to earth as a baby to become our Savior. Focus on that message of incredible mercy, love, and grace today and every day. Truly, what a glorious festival and Holy Day (holiday), this Christmas! What a glorious message, this Gospel! DON’T MISS IT … OR KEEP IT TO YOURSELF! What a glorious baby, this Christ (Messiah), this Jesus, this Savior for the world!
1 Let us all with gladsome voice
Praise the God of heaven,
Who, to bid our hearts rejoice,
His own Son hath given.
2 To this vale of tears He comes,
Here to serve in sadness,
That with Him in heav’n’s fair homes
We may reign in gladness.
LSB 390 Let Us All with Gladsome Voice Public domain
Deeply touched by this Savior,
Pastor David Maier