Almost 15 years ago, when this feature was still in its infancy, 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 2022, coming as it does when we are beset by rising prices and increasing world tension, I come back to a transcript that I have hung on to for more than 40 years. 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 continues as 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, again, not coming easily to you, consider the words of another of my favorite wordsmiths. His name was Charles Dickens and in his literary opus, “A Christmas Carol,” 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. And God bless us, every one.
I feel so old. I remember Reasoner well
Merry Christmas to all.
MG, you are not alone…I too, remember Harry Reasoner!
This is one of the best. It is hard for some to grasp the true meaning of Christmas.
Merry Christmas to all.
Thank you Paul Gleiser for keeping the memory of the meaningful words of such men alive and the message of eternal hope that the celebration of the birth of Christ brings all of us each year.
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” Isaiah – Chapter 9 Verse 6, The Bible – KJV
Merry Christmas! — Jesus is the Reason for the Season.
Harry Reasoner Is the kind journalist so missing in journalism today.
Paul, thank you for following in Harry’s footsteps and for sharing his beautiful and timeless Christmas message with your readers every year.
Excellent, as always.
Thank you !
I am an incredibly lucky; some would say blessed, person to have actually experienced a Biblical moment. Did I ask for this, no. Did I anticipate this, no. Did I want this, no. It just happened early one morning to a person who was bullet proof, a teen, full of spit and confidence but was questioning of everything. I grew up in church; read a whole bunch of church related literature, participated in programs, organized a live nativity show multiple years in a row, but was not expecting what I received. I think I was 15 years old; maybe 16 but cannot fully remember; but I can remember the event vividly. It was approximately 6 a.m. in the morning maybe a tad bit earlier. My bedroom door looked down a short hallway into my parents’ bedroom where an old rotary phone sat on a nightstand. I could look down the hall from my bed and see the phone. The telephone rang waking my parents and myself. My father picked it up and began to talk in a very concerning voice. The instant before this phone call I had a dream or what I thought was a dream. Now understand, I dream in sound, color, smell, etc. In my dreams I am a part of them. Always has been this way my entire life; still dream this way. A very bright light appeared to me with a grandfatherly figure speaking to me. The light did not hurt my eyes, it comforted me as a warm blanket on a very cold day. The fatherly figure was white haired and gentle; a person I trusted implicitly. The person said, “Do not fear, the child is with me and will be alright.” THAT is the exact words; NEVER will forget them. My father hung up the phone and spoke to my mother who was still under the covers. He turned and saw that I was awake and looking at him. Remember I could see the phone and nightstand, which means I could see him talking on the phone. After he spoke to my mother for a brief moment, he started down the hall to talk to me. When he entered my room, he said the phone call was from a close relative. I said, I know the child died but don’t worry it is in Heaven and OK. My father almost passed smooth out. When he gathered himself, he asked how did I know this? How did I know what that phone call was all about? I told him of my vision. To this day I am not sure he believes that; but I do. Why? Because it happened to me. A real honest to Jesus’ vision from God, Jesus, or the Holy Ghost or all the above. This is not the only one either. I have a cousin who has these as well. We are the only two in our entire family of hundreds who get them. We do not ask for these, want these, study this, read about this, nothing; it just happens, and they are all true and are events that happen. Are they scary, NO. They are actually calming and peaceful. Strangely enough in a Star Trek movie Woopie Goldberg plays a character that has a line that says an event is like being “wrapped in joy”. All I can say is these events are exactly that. Wrapped in joy. I share this with you all because Christmas is real. It is a time of Joy, Peace, Love, and Calm. It is NOT about spending loads of money on gifts. The greatest gift is Love. A hug, conversation, and genuine smile is a gift that is eternal. I lost my mother two weeks ago after a horrific battle with depression. Her gift eternal was LOVE. Unconditional LOVE. We need to forget the politics, the stress of money, the thought of gifts as material items from Walmart or LL Bean. Christmas Gifts are LOVE, Sharing, Hugs, Smiles, Warmth of Spirit. Love thy Neighbor as Thyself. Even if our neighbor is a pain or has a rotten dog. YOUR Spirit is an amazing gift. Nurture it by what I said. Change the World with Love. I get it now.
Mike, I am sure glad that, more times than not, I take the time after a few days to go back and check for additional comments regarding Paul’s newest column. Had I not done so this time, I would have missed your beautifully written and wholly from the heart story. Thank you so much for sharing your story, a wonderful amazing story and one I believe to be true. God has given you an incredible gift and gifted you further with an impressive ability to tell your story.