By James H. Snowden
hen we come to think of it, does not a child seem an insignificant and disappointing gift for God to make to the world? After so long preparation and so great promises and hopes, would we not have expected some greater and more wonderful gift? But a child is so common; millions are born every month; there is nothing unique and wonderful about a child. Why did God not rather give some invention or discovery or piece of knowledge that would revolutionize and bless the world? Would he not have done enormously more for mankind if in the first century of our era he had given them the printing press, or the steam engine, or the electric light? May there not yet be waiting for us some invention or knowledge that will work wonders beyond anything we have dreamed and shower material comforts on the world?
This thought grows out of our blind materialism which leads us to think that matter is the master of mind, circumstance more important than character and the things of the body than the things of the spirit. But material improvements do not necessarily improve men. The locomotive has little relation to character. It picks a man up at one point and drops him at another the same man he was. If he is selfish and wicked at the beginning of the journey, he is just as selfish and wicked at its end. It is a simple fact that all our material progress works little improvement in morals. At the hour Christ was born Rome had an amazing material civilization, blazing with splendor, but all the more rapidly was it rotting at the core.
But a child has in it the possibility of growth and of imparting regenerating ideas and a new life to the world. Sir Isaac Newton did not give any money or material gift to the world, but he gave it scientific ideas and a scientific spirit, and in giving it this he raised the intellectual level of the world and gave it the power of making millions of money. Shakespeare gave the world no new machine, but he opened the eyes of men to see heavenly visions and thus enriched them with treasures above all the gold of the world. Martin Luther invented no steam engine or sewing machine, but he taught men the rights of conscience and created our modern liberties. No material thing, however powerful and splendid, can make a better world: this work calls for better men. Therefore when God brings into the world a child endowed with superior intellectual and moral power, though his gift is only a babe and seems insignificant and hardly worth counting among so many, yet he has sent one of the greatest gifts of which his omnipotence is capable. An old German schoolmaster always took his hat off to each new boy that came into his school, never knowing what elements of genius might have been mixed in his newly molded brain. When Erasmus came out of that school his prophetic instinct was justified. Never despise a child, for in it sleeps some of the omnipotence and worth of God.
But the Child which God gave the world as its Christmas gift was no merely human child however richly endowed. This Child was human and was born in time, but he was also divine and came forth from eternity. The possibilities that were sleeping in this Child were foreseen by the prophet Isaiah in the names that were prophetically given him, every name being a window through which we can look in upon his personality and power, every title being one of his crowns: “His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” All these powers and possibilities are incarnated in this Child, and he is working them out in a redeemed world. God made no mistake, then, he gave us no small and common gift, but he did his best and gave the world the greatest possible Christmas Gift when this Child was born. All the grass in the world came from one seed, all the roses from one root, and all the redeemed that shall at last populate heaven and fill it with praise throughout eternity shall be saved by the grace and clad in the beauty of this Child.
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