These are some terrific quotes for this time of year:
I have often said that the English preacher Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) and the English writer G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936) are some of the most quotable men around. Yes, they would have stiff competition: think of people like C. S. Lewis, A. W. Tozer, and Martyn Lloyd-Jones as but a few other Christians who are eminently quotable. I actually discussed (and quoted from) all five of them here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2022/06/01/top-5-most-quotable-christians/
But these two men that I have singled out would have many hundreds, indeed thousands, of quotable quotes – on all manner of topics. So they of course have had a lot to say about Christmas and what it celebrates: the birth of the Messiah. Here I simply offer six quotes from each of these two great saints.
Although Spurgeon understood that the date we use to celebrate Christmas (December 25) is rather arbitrary, and he thought we should daily celebrate Christ’s arrival, he was keen to use the day to preach Christ. Like all believers, he saw the Incarnation as one of the most grand and amazing events ever. Here are a few quotes from him, with the final one being my favourite.
“The greatest and most momentous fact which the history of the world records is the fact of Christ’s birth.”
“There have been sights matchless and wonderful, at which we might look for years, and yet turn away and say, ‘I cannot understand this; here is a deep into which I dare not dive; my thoughts are drowned; this is a steep without a summit; I cannot climb it; it is high, I cannot attain it!’ But all these things are as nothing, compared with the incarnation of the Son of God. I do believe that the very angels have never wondered but once and that has been incessantly ever since they first beheld it. They never cease to tell the astonishing story, and to tell it with increasing astonishment too, that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was born of the Virgin Mary, and became a man.”
“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.”
“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.”
“You may keep His birthday all the year round, for it were better to say He was born every day of the year than on any one, for truly in a spiritual sense He is born every day of every year in some men’s hearts! And that, to us, is a far weightier point than the observation of holy days! Express your joy, first, as the angels did, by public ministry. Some of us are called to speak to the many. Let us, in the clearest and most earnest tones proclaim the Savior and His power to rescue man. Others of you cannot preach, but you can sing. Sing, then, your anthems and praise God with all your hearts! Do not be slack in the devout use of your tongues, which are the glory of your frames, but again and again and again lift up your joyful hymns unto the new-born King! Others of you can neither preach nor sing. Well, then, you must do what the shepherds did, and what did they do? You are told twice that they spread the news. As soon as they had seen the Babe, they made known abroad the saying that was told them, and as they went home they glorified God. This is one of the most practical ways of showing your joy. Holy conversation is as acceptable as sermons and anthems! There was also one who said little, but thought the more—‘Mary pondered all these things in her heart.’ Quiet, happy spirit, weigh in your heart the grand Truth of God that Jesus was born at Bethlehem. Immanuel, God with us— weigh it if you can! Look at it again and again! Examine the varied facets of this priceless brilliant diamond and bless, and adore and love and wonder, and yet adore again this matchless miracle of love! Lastly, go and do good to others. Like the wise men, bring your offerings and offer to the newborn King your heart’s best gold of love, frankincense of praise and myrrh of penitence. Bring everything of your heart’s best and something of your substance, also, for this is a day of good tidings and it were unseemly to appear before the Lord empty. Come and worship God manifest in the flesh and be filled with His light and sweetness by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”
“Well now, I have been picturing to myself the manger, the Baby that lay in it, and Mary his mother watching lovingly over him; and I’ll tell you what I thought. Those little hands will one day grasp the sceptre of universal empire; those little arms will one day grapple with the monster ‘Death’, and destroy it; those little feet shall tread on the serpent’s neck, and crush that old deceiver’s head; yea, and that little tongue, which hath not yet learned to articulate a word, shall, ere long, pour from his sweet lips such streams of eloquence as shall fertilize the minds of the whole human race, and infuse his teaching into the literature of the world; and again a little while, and that tongue shall pronounce the judgments of heaven on the destinies of all mankind. We have all thought it wonderful that the God of glory should stoop so low; but we shall one day think it more wonderful that the Man of sorrows should be exalted so high. Earth could find no place too base for him; heaven will scarcely find a place lofty enough for him.”
Christmas and the birth of Christ is discussed often by Chesterton, be it in his non-fiction, his fiction, or his poetry. There would be plenty of passages to choose from here. But these are a few favourites of mine.
“Christmas is built upon a beautiful and intentional paradox; that the birth of the homeless should be celebrated in every home.”
“The great majority of people will go on observing forms that cannot be explained; they will keep Christmas Day with Christmas gifts and Christmas benedictions; they will continue to do it; and some day suddenly wake up and discover why.”
“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.”
“The more we are proud that the Bethlehem story is plain enough to be understood by the shepherds, and almost by the sheep, the more do we let ourselves go, in dark and gorgeous imaginative frescoes or pageants about the mystery and majesty of the Three Magian Kings.”
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?
“The House of Christmas”
…This world is wild as an old wives’ tale,
And strange the plain things are,
The earth is enough and the air is enough
For our wonder and our war;
But our rest is as far as the fire-drake swings
And our peace is put in impossible things
Where clashed and thundered unthinkable wings
Round an incredible star.
To an open house in the evening
Home shall men come,
To an older place than Eden
And a taller town than Rome.
To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be and that are,
To the place where God was homeless
And all men are at home.
Merry Christmas one and all. Let Christ be central. As has been said, wise men still seek him. The passage found in Luke 2:15 should be something we all take a hold of, even today – it is still worth doing: “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”