– Dec. 22, 1945 –
As promised last week, here’s another Christmas editorial—this one from Dec. 22, 1945, just a few months after the end of World War II. The tone of this editorial by Burris Butler is revealing. There is relief that the war is over, but a high degree of unsettledness that is predictive of the decades to come.
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‘GLORY TO GOD’ MUST COME FIRST
We all need to pause a little while to listen with the shepherds of long ago to the song of the angels which rang out across the Judean hills and heralded the birth of the Son of God. For this song finds a ready echo in the war-weary hearts of our present generation as it holds out the hope of “peace on earth.” We have come to the close of, or possibly to a lull in, World War II, in which mankind has been seen at its worst. The slaughter of the innocent babes in Bethlehem was but child’s play compared to the wanton destruction of civilian populations of the great cities of nations at war. Innocent children, the aged, the sick, and crippled, all classes and conditions of men have suffered and died in warfare that reached its climax with the obliteration of two entire cities by means of two single instruments of destruction, and that at the hands of our own peace-loving nation. Superlatives alone can describe the horrors of the war that has held the world in its grip.
There is much brave talk about peace on the tongues of men in whose hearts dwells the fear of greater and more horrible wars to come. China, in whose cup are the dregs of thousands of years of misery, is torn with civil strife. The Indies are in a state of revolt against their absentee landlords. All Europe is a festering sore on the body of the world. Palestine is the source of more trouble than its size would indicate. In America we can not enjoy the fruits of peace because of industrial strife. The United Nations labored at San Francisco and brought forth their mousy charter. We have the strange picture of a peace conference deferred, not because enemies can not agree, but because allies seem to mistrust each other. And across the whole world picture the Soviet Union throws the shadow of a great question mark. Yes, our generation longs for the fulfillment of the angel song of hope, “peace on earth, good will among men.”
But “glory to God in the highest” comes first in the song of the angels and it comes first in the divine order of things. Glory to God must precede peace on earth. Or, putting it conversely, Paul in writing to the Romans of the sin and resulting judgment upon the human race, presents the moral and spiritual decline of man as beginning with the fact “that knowing God, they glorified him not as God, neither gave thanks; but became vain in their reasonings, and their senseless heart was darkened.” Much has been made of the fact that the United Nations Conference carefully refrained from prayer and as carefully avoided all mention of God in its charter. But this is only a symptom of the blasphemous disregard in which the Creator is held by the leaders of thought and by people in general in our day. Religious “liberals” have all but robbed God of His personality, not to speak of His power. Leaders of education within the past fifty years have so completely secularized the training of youth that they have not only divorced it from any element of religion, but also from the moral and ethical teaching which finds its basis in religion. Space does not permit us to enlarge upon the statement of Paul that “sin abounds.” The situation can be summed up by saying that men refuse to glorify God and as a result they have not peace.
Both glory to God and peace on earth are inseparably bound with the Son of God who lay as a babe in Bethlehem while the angels sang. God is not glorified where His Son is rejected. There can be no peace between men until first there is peace between man and his God. This peace is effected only through the blood of the Son, appropriated through faith, repentance, and obedience.
The star of the east no longer shines. The angel chorus no longer sings. The Babe of Bethlehem became in turn the Carpenter of Nazareth, the Man of Galilee, the Lamb of God, and, victorious over death, is now King of kings and Lord of lords, reigning at the right hand of the Majesty on high. The peace of the world depends, not upon council tables and meetings of foreign ministers, but upon the yielding of allegiance to the Son of God. “How shall they call on him whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? and how shall they preach, except they be sent? even as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that bring glad tidings of good things!”
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Amen and Merry Christmas.
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—Jim Nieman, managing editor, Christian Standard
Image: “The Angels Appearing to the Shepherds” (1794) by William Skelton; courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.