I watched a classic film at the Beltonian Theater () last week. I’m also looking forward to seeing others before Christmas and again before New Years while holidays last. The thing that struck me this time about “It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946) was that while it was over sixty years old, it was as marvelous as ever today on the big “silver screen.” Literally generations have watched this story depicted on film and enjoyed it the same as me.
Christmas is similar, in that, generations over the course of many centuries have heard and read and seen reenacted the Story about a special babe, born to a virgin on one holy night. Travelers reported seeing him lying in a manger wrapped in swaddling clothes. The birth is as joyful an event to contemplate now as it was then, and as marvelous to hear that Story again as it was on the first day it was told.
There was a married couple named Joseph and Mary who loved each other, and they travelled across country to a little town called Bethlehem . The young bride was very pregnant and so the trip was hard, but they had to go there in order to pay their taxes, because those were the instructions from the Roman government. The weather was cool—cold when the sun went down. They arrived in town when it was evening and there was no lodging left, nothing at the inn where Joseph had expected to find room. But they were able to go out where the animals were kept, and there they found shelter from the cold.
In northern countries elsewhere houses are traditionally built adjoining stalls and barns, because the body heat from animals helps keep the people warm. The place where Joseph and Mary resorted to was quite a bit warmer than the outside air. The manger was normally used as a trough or box to hold hay for the animals to eat, but it made a perfect crib or bed for a baby. Mary brought the swaddling clothes, the clean warm wraps she planned to put around her newborn.
The night was clear and beautiful. A large, unusually bright star shone almost directly above their shelter. Mary delivered her baby easily, and as they had discussed they named him Jesus. Jesus was the son of Man (since his mother was Mary) and also the Son of God (his Father). Joseph was Jesus’ step-father therefore, because Mary had been impregnated by the Holy Spirit and angels had explained this both to Mary and Joseph before their wedding. Indeed, outside the place where Jesus was born shepherds would report that angels and a “multitude of the heavenly host” were attending and happily announced this great and historic Event to them (see Luke 2:8-14).
Imagine: God didn’t think Mary needed to be eighteen or to finish college first before having a child. Mary didn’t mind nor did Joseph, who was also quite a bit older than Mary. Even without the extramarital pregnancy, Mary’s relationship with Joseph would appear scandalous today. God didn’t ask them (or us), however, for permission or about the wisdom of His plan. He informed them and they accepted it, because in those days they knew some things better than us. To use a Biblical metaphor, like the clay which ought not to question what reason is in the Potter’s hand. Subordination was clearly understood as between the Creator and all He creates.
Miracle attends the birth of every human child. The birth of Jesus was singularly spectacular, however, because he was the coincidence of Man and God on earth. Jesus beheld a perfect, all-powerful eye upon the world wherever he went. His existence and being as such, gave proof of so much, namely the proof of God’s plan and of Life beyond the veil of matter. Jesus Christ was and is the living proof of Purpose and Power, that Love is stronger than hate and Life the ultimate conqueror over death.
Without that first glorious Christmas morning when Jesus drew his breath and smiled his first smile, and looked up at Mary with an immense joy and love radiating back at him from a mother’s heart—nothing, absolutely nothing else would be the same. “It’s a Wonderful Life” would not play at a movie or dinner theater. The story would be dark, incomplete, unfulfilled if written. Life itself would be accidental, love a temporal cheat. That is why Christmas is the most important Birthday in the world. Moreover, we all have an invitation to His party. A multitude of the heavenly host are still attending every year and celebrating, announcing the Good News to those who have never heard. Whenever we sing our “Silent Night” and other sacred carols, we sing our Lord’s “Happy Birthday” song. Merry Christmas to all!
Wesley Allen Riddle is a retired military officer with degrees and honors from West Point and Oxford . Widely published in the academic and opinion press, he ran for U.S. Congress (TX-District 31) in the 2004 Republican Primary and is currently Chairman of the Central Texas Tea Party. Email: .