I am reading Handel Brown’s little book, “Keeping the Spirit of Christmas,” and although it was printed in 1965 it sounds contemporary. Some of the distressing conditions to which he referred were the Cuban crisis, the invasion of China by India, the Viet Nam, Laos, Cambodia conflicts, rebellions in Africa, and the civil rights crisis in the United States. The proverb is true, “The more things change the more they remain the same.” From the prologue:
In light of the distressing conditions which are apparent on every side today, let us ask again some old questions. Is there a God, or is our world the result of chance? If there is a God, has He anything to do with Christmas? If we can associate this God with Christmas, does that mean He is in any way like the Babe whose birth we celebrate, and the Man He grew up to be? How can we know whether Christmas is real or spurious?
Christianity is not a subject you can study in College. It is not like logic, geometry or physics. You can learn about it, but the strangest paradox of the Gospel is just this: if you want to know whether it is true or not, you have to accept it first. This sounds like putting the cart before the horse, but unless you accept Jesus Himself as your Lord and Saviour, the answer is not there. “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned: (I Corinthians 2:14). Only those who “taste and see” know that “the Lord is good.” This is one field in which experience must precede knowledge. The qualified judge of religious truth is not the critic but the saint. Christian doctrine did not produce Christian experience. It was the other way around. “That…which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life…that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you” (I John 1:1f.).
The meaning and the goal of our existence are discerned in Jesus. Not in what He says so much as in what He is, and in what He becomes to those who love Him. We have to know Him before we can know the answers.
This is not a denial of the place of reason in religion. It is the assertion that reason, by itself, is inadequate. I repeat what I said earlier: we must use the minds God has given us, to think in a serious manner. But until we think as Christians, the answer will evade us.
The Festival of our Lord’s birth is an occasion for throwing the glory of His Incarnation across the dark shadows of our perplexity. God manifest in the flesh is a mighty and surpassing mystery. Our deepest thought about it are mere glimpses of its outer garments. Yet it has been the essential faith of all the Christian ages….
Ours is an age of a lot of noise and very little light…there is so much that blares at us today that it is becoming increasingly difficult to find the light, to know the truth, and to make responsible individual judgments.
There is a beautiful contrast between light and noise. You watch the sun rising in the east, quietly stealing into the sky, dispelling the night, and gently waking all nature to life and loveliness. It does not shout. It does not cry aloud. It moves silently across the world, transforming it.
And so it is with Jesus. He is not the Big Noise that shatters our individual judgment. He is the Light which enables us to see things more clearly, and to exercise our discernment more intelligently. “In Thy light we see light.”
We are bewildered as we ponder our gross human situation. We ask God, Why? His clearest answer comes, not in the form of a logical syllogism, not as a mathematical formula, but in the form of a Son. He whispers to our seeking heart, “I am the Way” ((John 4:16). Despite our limitations, when we accept Him as the Way, we discover, to our joy, that He is also the Light. We do not rise to spiritual heights by pouring over self-improvement guidebooks, but by sitting at His feet.
We must be willing, here also, to “become as little children,” so that we might “enter the kingdom of God” (Matthew 18:3). The gracious invitation of Jesus still stands, “Come unto me…take my yoke upon you, and learn of me: (Matthew 11:28f.). The “coming” must precede the “learning.” We do not realize the depth of our ignorance until we humbly come to Him. No pride can come to Him.