Malankara World


     A Wonderful Night: An Interpretation of Christmas

By James H. Snowden

XVII. Splendid Gifts

“And they came into the house and saw the young child with Mary his mother; and they fell down and worshipped him; and opening their treasures they offered unto him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.” Is there anything more beautiful in the Bible, or in all literature? The imagination of painter or poet may well kindle at the scene. There are the wondering mother, the worshiping wise men bowing down, the shining fragrant gifts, and in the midst, as the center and glory of it all, the young Child. This Child, which even in its infancy subordinates mother and wise men and gold to itself, is indeed a King. Worship is the expression of reverence, and reverence is the root of all worth and divineness in life. The human soul is a poor and pitiful fragment until it is completed and crowned with worship, a lost child until it finds its Father. The wise men found a King to worship; they were not following a false guide across weary wastes into nothingness. Our instinct of worship is not false, but is true and is matched with its appropriate satisfaction. Christ completes our human childhood with divine Fatherhood. He that hath seen him hath seen the father.

These Persian scholars were forerunners of other wise men going to Bethlehem. Through all the Christian centuries men of genius have been laying their most precious gifts at the feet of Christ. Columbus had no sooner set foot on a new shore than he named it San Salvador, Holy Saviour; and thus he laid his great discovery, America, at the feet of Jesus. Leonardo da Vinci swept the golden goblets from the table of his “Last Supper” because he feared their splendor would distract attention from and dim the glory of the Master himself. The hand that rounded St. Peter’s dome reared it in adoration to Christ, and Raphael in painting the Transfiguration laid his masterpiece at the feet of this Child. Mozart there laid his symphonies, and Beethoven the works of his colossal genius. Shakespeare, “with the best brain in six thousand years,” who has poured the many-colored splendors of his imagination over all our life, wrote in his will: “I commend my soul into the hands of God my Creator, hoping and assuredly believing, through the only merits of Jesus Christ my Saviour, to be made partaker of life everlasting.” Tennyson begins his In Memoriam, in the judgment of many the superbest literary blossom of the nineteenth century, with the invocation, “Strong Son of God, immortal Love.”

Though Jesus wrote no book himself and never wrote any recorded thing except a few words in the sand which some passing breeze or foot quickly obliterated, yet out of him have grown vast forests of literature. It would tear great gaps in the shelves of any library and leave the remaining volumes spotted with blank spaces if all the books about him and references to him were removed. A thousand books have been written about Lincoln and eighty thousand about Napoleon, but if all the books that were ever written about Lincoln and Washington and Napoleon and Cæsar were piled up in one heap it would look small beside the mountain of books that have been written about Jesus Christ. Not only have the writers written about him above every other figure in history, but in like degree the artists have painted him and the musicians have sung about him. He is the most fertile theme of all literature and art, and the gifts that genius have heaped about his feet are an incomparable testimony to the adoration that is paid to him.

About the first use to which any notable invention is put is to spread the gospel of Jesus. The very first book printed on a printing press was the Bible, and this wonderful and perhaps greatest human invention has been busier printing this book than any other to this day and multiplies its copies by the hundred million over the world. The newspaper is a mighty means of spreading his principles. The railway and steamship carry his gospel, and the airship gives wings to the same good news. Telegraph and telephone flash it, and wireless waves set the ether over whole continents and oceans aquiver with the messages of Jesus Christ. The sewing machine sews for him, the typewriter writes for him, and even battle ships and bayonets may fight for him. Sooner or later every inventor must lay his magic machine at his feet. For him the statesman legislates, the scientist investigates, the author writes, the artist paints and the singer sings. In an increasing degree Jesus is drawing all men into his service, and they are laying their treasures at his feet. The gold of the wise men was only the first gleam of the shining heaps of wealth that his followers are now piling on the altar of his service. This process will go on until the whole world will lie at his feet.

Every generation sends a more numerous company to Bethlehem. With every century worshipers arrive from more distant lands. From every quarter of the circumference of the globe paths now run to the manger of this Child, worn deep by millions of feet. The nations are beginning to come. By and by these converging paths will be crowded and all the ends of the earth shall bring their gold and shall worship at his feet.

What is the explanation of the mighty, worldwide, attractive power of this Child? There is only one adequate explanation: “He shall save his people from their sins.” The world is tired of men who come to save it with programmes only an inch long; who have nothing better to propose than longer laws and cleaner sanitation; who, unmindful of the experiment in Eden, would have us believe that if we were only placed in a pleasant garden where we had plenty to eat and little to do we would all be good. The weary world wants one who can go to the root of its unrest, and it is finding out that this can be done by him who is mighty to save people from their sins. All who put their trust in him are blessed with purity and peace. In this great world, lost in sin and beaten upon by infinite mystery, there is only one voice that comes like music across our life with power to cleanse and comfort us; and this is the Voice whose infant cry was first heard in Bethlehem. Let us now go even unto Bethlehem while the song is in the air and see this Child and worship at his feet.


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