About ten years ago I decided to establish a You Tell Me tradition — something that we share together on our last visit of the year. That tradition is made possible by one of the best wordsmiths ever to work in broadcasting. His name was Harry Reasoner and he was one of the founding anchors of CBS’s “60 Minutes” and he also anchored for ABC during the 1970s.
He, like many of his peers, learned his craft as a newspaperman, catering to an audience with a longer attention span. His technology was a manual typewriter and his daily pursuit was the well-turned phrase.
As I ponder Christmas 2019, coming as it does when the contentiousness of the past three years is at a new crescendo, and seems to be unwilling to subside even as it once did for Christmas, I am reminded of a transcript that I have kept now for most of four decades. It was written by Reasoner and delivered on at least two occasions, once on “60 Minutes” and once when he was an anchor at ABC. He said before he died that it got him more mail than anything he had ever done.
So, in what is now a You Tell Me tradition, here again is what Harry Reasoner said:
The basis for this tremendous annual burst of gift buying and parties and near hysteria is a quiet event that Christians believe actually happened a long time ago. You can say that in all societies there has always been a midwinter festival and that many of the trappings of our Christmas are almost violently pagan. But you come back to the central fact of the day and quietness of Christmas morning – the birth of God on earth.
It leaves you only three ways of accepting Christmas.
One is cynically, as a time to make money or endorse the making of it.
One is graciously, the appropriate attitude for non-Christians, who wish their fellow citizens all the joys to which their beliefs entitle them.
And the third, of course, is reverently. If this is the anniversary of the appearance of the Lord of the universe in the form of a helpless babe, then it is a very important day.
It’s a startling idea, of course. My guess is that the whole story that a virgin was selected by God to bear His Son as a way of showing His love and concern for man is not an idea that has been popular with theologians. It’s a somewhat illogical idea, and theologians like logic almost as much as they like God. It’s so revolutionary a thought that it probably could only come from a God that is beyond logic, and beyond theology.
It has a magnificent appeal. Almost nobody has seen God, and almost nobody has any real idea of what He is like. And the truth is that among men the idea of seeing God suddenly and standing in a very bright light is not necessarily a completely comforting and appealing idea.
But everyone has seen babies, and most people like them. If God wanted to be loved as well as feared he moved correctly here. If He wanted to know His people as well as rule them, He moved correctly here, for a baby growing up learns all about people. If God wanted to be intimately a part of man, He moved correctly, for the experiences of birth and familyhood are our most intimate and precious experiences.
So it goes beyond logic. It is either all falsehood or it is the truest thing in the world. It’s the story of the great innocence of God the baby – God in the form of man – and has such a dramatic shock toward the heart that if it is not true, for Christians, nothing is true.
So, if a Christian is touched only once a year, the touching is still worth it, and maybe on some given Christmas, some final quiet morning, the touch will take.”
Thank you, Harry.
One final thought, also now a You Tell Me tradition. If the Christmas Spirit is not coming easily to you this year, consider the words of another master wordsmith. His name was Charles Dickens. He said,
…for it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child himself.”
So it is, Mr. Dickens. So it is.
God bless us, every one.