Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Yes, Virginia, There is a Savior

Yes, Virginia, There is a Savior
By Brenda Black

What would Christmas look like if The New York Sun editor, Francis P. Church, on September 21, 1897, had been asked whether Jesus Christ were real rather than Santa Clause? And how would thousands of childlike hearts have been changed had he told Virginia the whole truth – Yes, Virginia, there is a Savior.

Only the letters in brackets have been changed from the original text to help us grasp the significance that the son of a Baptist preacher could have had on generations if Jesus were the topic instead of St. Nick.

"Dear Editor--I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no [Savior]. Papa says, 'If you see it in The Sun, it's so.' Please tell me the truth, is there a [Savior]?” -- Virginia O'Hanlon, 115 West Ninety-fifth Street.

“Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge. Yes, Virginia, there is a [Savior]. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no [Savior]! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no child-like faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished. Not believe in a [Savior]! You might as well not believe in [angels]! You might get your papa to hire men to watch ... on Christmas eve to [hear the angels singing], but even if you did not see [the Savior born or hear the proclamation], what would that prove? Nobody sees [Jesus], but that is no sign that there is no [Christ]. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see [angels] dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world. You tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding. No [Savior]! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood. Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.”

The response to the editorial was sensational! It became one of the most famous opinion columns ever written and was reprinted annually in The New York Sun until the paper went out of business. Oh, that the information would have been truly Good News and not fanciful legend mixed with theology. Then Virginia and her little friends and every man, woman and child that read Church's exposition would be able to experience genuine Christmas cheer and learn of God's favor.

“But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.

“Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.' (Luke 2:10-14)

Of course, there is room for fantasy and frivolity in the life of a child. Imagination is a gift not to be pilfered from the minds of young and young-at-heart. But, when the real story is better than fiction and has eternal rewards that outlast seasonal presents and traditions, aren't we giving them the very best Christmas when we keep Christ as the focus.

“Whatever else be lost among the years, Let us keep Christmas still a shining thing: Whatever doubts assail us, or what fears, Let us hold close one day, remembering its poignant meaning for the hearts of men. Let us get back our childlike faith again.” – Grace Noll Crowell

Now, more than ever the “skepticism of a skeptical age” threatens the reason for this season – Christ the Lord. Keep Christ in Christmas, build faith in the next generation and tell them honestly, yes, my child, there is a Savior.

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