The Glory of Christmas
Some meditations of the wonders of the Christmas story:
For two millennia Christians have celebrated the birth of Jesus. Millions of words have already been offered on this story of stories, and millions more likely will be. Of course the main accounts of this event are found in the four Gospels and the rest of the New Testament. Moreover, it is foreshadowed and predicted in the Old Testament.
A quick search of my own website reveals that I already have 175 articles fully or partially devoted to the Christmas story. In one of those articles I asked these questions, “Why did Jesus visit this planet, and what did he seek to do while here?” I went on to say that there are plenty of wrong and reckless answers, such as:
-He came to be an example for us
-He came to bring world peace
-He came to be a moral teacher
-He came to show us how to be nice to each other
-He came to spread peace and joy
-He came to tell us how to be good
-He came to promote social justice
-He came so we could all get along
-He came so we could find inner peace and personal fulfilment
-He came so that we might be happy
-He came so that we could get rich
So why then did Jesus come? Let me answer that – and seek to explain the Christmas story – by drawing on the wisdom of others – others who have written so wondrously and so beautifully on the Christmas story. Running in chronological order, I will mention just a bit about each writer, and offer some of their quotations. I trust they will be a blessing to you as they have been to me.
The great church father Athanasius (c. 296 – 373) offered deep theological insights into the story, especially in his most famous work, On the Incarnation. Just one quote from him:
“The gaping chasm between God and human beings – which human reason has perceived and before which it has trembled – has been bridged by this infant’s merest yawn.”
Another hugely important church father was Augustine (354 – 430). He said much on this topic, including in his sermons. Here are a few quotes from them:
“Maker of the sun, He is made under the sun. In the Father He remains, from His mother He goes forth. Creator of heaven and earth, He was born on earth under heaven. Unspeakably wise, He is wisely speechless. Filling the world, He lies in a manger. Ruler of the stars, He nurses at His mother’s bosom. He is both great in the nature of God, and small in the form of a servant.”
“He so loved us that for our sake He was made man in time, through Whom all times were made; was in the world less in years than His servants, though older than the world itself in His eternity; was made man, Who made man; was created of a mother, whom He created; was carried by hands which He formed; nursed at the breasts which He had filled; cried in the manger in wordless infancy, He the Word without Whom all human eloquence is mute.”
“He lies in a manger, but contains the world. He feeds at the breast, but also feeds the angels. He is wrapped in swaddling clothes, but vests us with immortality. He found no place in the inn, but makes for Himself a temple in the hearts of believers. In order that weakness might become strong, strength became weak.”
The Reformers can also be cited. Just one quote from Martin Luther (1483 – 1546), who wrote this for his children at Christmas:
“What the globe could not enwrap,
Nestled lies in Mary’s lap.
Just a baby, very wee,
Yet Lord of all the world is he.”
The ever-quotable Charles Spurgeon (1834 – 1892), must also be included here:
“Though creation may be a majestic organ of praise, it cannot reach the compass of the golden canticle—Incarnation! There is more in that than in creation, more melody in Jesus in the manger, than there is in worlds on worlds rolling their grandeur round the throne of the Most High.”
“The greatest and most momentous fact which the history of the world records is the fact of Christ’s birth.”
“Infinite, and an infant. Eternal, and yet born of a woman. Almighty, and yet hanging on a woman’s breast. Supporting a universe, and yet needing to be carried in a mother’s arms. King of angels, and yet the reputed son of Joseph. Heir of all things, and yet the carpenter’s despised son. Oh, the wonder of Christmas.”
Rivalling Spurgeon for quotability would be G. K. Chesterton (1874 – 1936):
“Christmas is built upon a beautiful and intentional paradox; that the birth of the homeless should be celebrated in every home.”
“The exciting quality of Christmas rests on an ancient and admitted paradox. It rests upon the paradox that the power and center of the whole universe may be found in some seemingly small matter, that the stars in their courses may move like a moving wheel around the neglected outhouse of an inn.”
If the stars fell; night’s nameless dreams
Of bliss and blasphemy came true,
If skies were green and snow were gold,
And you loved me as I love you;
O long light hands and curled brown hair,
And eyes where sits a naked soul;
Dare I even then draw near and burn
My fingers in the aureole?
Yes, in the one wise foolish hour
God gives this strange strength to a man.
He can demand, though not deserve,
Where ask he cannot, seize he can.
But once the blood’s wild wedding o’er,
Were not dread his, half dark desire,
To see the Christ-child in the cot,
The Virgin Mary by the fire?”
It goes without saying that C. S. Lewis (1898 – 1963) must also be included here:
“The central miracle asserted by Christians is the Incarnation. . . . If the thing happened, it was the central event in the history of the earth.”
“… God descends to re-ascend. He comes down; down from the heights of absolute being into time and space, down into humanity … down to the very roots and sea-bed of the Nature He has created. But He goes down to come up again and bring the ruined world up with Him. One has the picture of a strong man stooping lower and lower to get himself underneath some great complicated burden. He must stoop in order to lift, he must almost disappear under the load before he incredibly straightens his back and marches off with the whole mass swaying on his shoulders.”
“Once in our world, a stable had something in it that was bigger than our whole world.”
Baptist evangelist and pastor John R. Rice (1895 – 1980), had this to say:
“You can never truly enjoy Christmas until you can look up into the Father’s face and tell him you have received his Christmas gift.”
The famous Dutch Christian Corrie ten Boom (1892 – 1983) said it this way:
“Who can add to Christmas? The perfect motive is that God so loved the world. The perfect gift is that He gave His only Son. The only requirement is to believe in Him. The reward of faith is that you shall have everlasting life.”
The American preacher and evangelist Vance Havner (1901 – 1986) also deserves a run here:
“Christmas is based on an exchange of gifts, the gift of God to man – His unspeakable gift of His Son, and the gift of man to God – when we present our bodies a living sacrifice.”
The great preacher Billy Graham (1918 – 2018) put it this way:
“The very purpose of Christ’s coming into the world was that he might offer up his life as a sacrifice for the sins of men. He came to die. This is the heart of Christmas.”
American novelist Frederick Buechner (1926 – ), is also a worthy inclusion:
“It is impossible to conceive how different things would have turned out if that birth had not happened whenever, wherever, however it did … for millions of people who have lived since, the birth of Jesus made possible not just a new way of understanding life but a new way of living it. It is a truth that, for twenty centuries, there have been untold numbers of men and women who, in untold numbers of ways, have been so grasped by the child who was born, so caught up in the message he taught and the life he lived, that they have found themselves profoundly changed by their relationship with him.”
The renowned theologian J. I. Packer (1926 – ) said this:
“The Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, needing to be fed and changed and taught to talk like any other child. The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets. Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as this truth of the Incarnation.”
Many more such inspirational quotes could be offered here. These are some of my favourites. Merry Christmas one and all, and may the true meaning of this amazing time never be lost on any of us.
12 Replies to “The Glory of Christmas”
Laid down to sleep in a feeding manger in a barn full of farm animals on that first Christmas night so long ago;
Jesus Christ, Son of Almighty God and Creator of the Universe, entered our human existence in ultimate humility, so that no person may feel that they are too lowly for Him to care about or notice;
And so that every person may come to Him, be able to relate to Him and experience His loving care and forgiveness of sins, and His gift of eternal life in Paradise with Him forever . . .
If we choose to turn to Him, individually, in repentance and faith.
Lord Jesus, we bow down in humility and awe and in loving reverence and gratitude before You.
Happy Christmas Bill and family, and to all your readers,
With heartfelt appreciation!
Thank you Bill for all your inspirational work. Thank you for your support of those who are persecuted for their faith. Our family wishes yours a Christmas time of wonder, delight, joy and rest.
Thanks Suzanna and Gail.
In a physical and spiritual sense, the choice of our reading is critical. I was nourished by this Bill. With thanks.
Thank you Bill. Merry Christmas. May you be ever strengthened in your ministry.
Wishing you a joyous Christmas from the UK. You are a man with broad shoulders, wisdom and kindness, in an all too rare combination. Thank you for continuing to be a tireless beacon for truth and justice, and for helping me personally to steer a course from darkness to reaching some way towards the light. Your forgiveness this year moved me to tears and I know I would not have found it anywhere other than from a man of profound and honest faith such as yourself.
I am a better man for having read and understood your articles. Once with my eyes closed. Now in the spirit of genuinely seeking truth and finding so much of value in what you say. The quotations here are rewarding and good food for thought.
God bless you and your family this Christmas, and thank you for all you continue to do. From a wretch who has needed saving from himself, and to hear the truth.
Many thanks indeed Richie. God bless you heaps. We continue to keep you in our prayers, and it is people like you who make CultureWatch all worthwhile. Blessings and Merry Christmas.
Thank you and merry Christmas to you and yours.
Thank you for the best Christmas message I have seen for a long time.
A favourite piece of mine from C.S. Lewis on Christmas is his “spurious” lost chapter from the Histories of Herodotus. This piece refers to the inhabitants of a remote part of Europe mysteriously referred to as “Niatirb”! Certain of these people celebrate with joy and calm a feast they call “Crissmas”, others drag themselves through what they call “Exmas” with much vexation, heavy spending and Christmas morning hangovers! For an excerpt from this Christmas parable, published in God in the Dock a.k.a. Undeceptions go to: http://www.cslewisinstitute.org/Xmas_and_Christmas . How hard it is to celebrate our Lord’s Nativity aright, even when one begins with noble intentions.
This used to be known in the U.S. now Christmas is all about Santa. Sometimes you find a nativity scene with a Santa in it. One song even sticks in “he knows that we’re God’s children and that makes everything right” to sort of say this whole Santa stuff is fine with God. I have no problem talking about the real saint Nicholas but this magical fat elf called Santa has nothing to do with saint Nicholas. What gets me is how many Christians think doing the whole Santa shtick is ok. Do you have any articles on Santa??? And how Christians should be dealing with the issue when it comes to children???
Thanks Paul. I cover that somewhat here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2013/11/12/christmas-of-pagan-origins/