Between “God’s Unspeakable Gift” and “Still the War Goes On”


The December 20, 1917 issue of the Christian-Evangelist, a prominent Disciples national weekly, was the annual Christmas number.  Through numerous articles, editorials, short stories, artwork and poetry centered on Christmas, the journal sent its well-wishes to her readers for the season.  Included are numerous quotes and reminders about the true meaning of Christmas.  Virginia’s famous letter even makes an appearance.

Among the many interesting items in the issue are two articles which merit special attention. Coming from the pens of two widely regarded ministers, J. H. Garrison and Edgar DeWitt Jones, they speak a word to us this Christmas season.  Just as a single page separates them in the journal, the issues to which they speak are equally close in our lives today. 

Jones’ Christmas meditation is from 2 Corinthians 9:15: “Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift.”  There Paul roots the grace of giving in the prior grace of God.  We give because God has first given to us and his gift is grace upon grace.  Indeed, God’s gift is so marvelous, so wonderful, so gracious, that words fail to capture it or fully describe it.  God’s gift to us in Jesus, Jones says, is “the unutterably great boon of the heavenly Father to his children.” He concludes, “Hang the wreaths, twine the mistletoe, light the candles, give the gifts; but above all and best of all, remember Bethlehem and God’s Gift in that manger-cradle.”

Turn the page and you will see “The Editor’s Easy Chair”, a weekly column contributed by the journal’s Editor-Emeritus, J. H. Garrison.  Among the short notices in his columns are a few paragraphs, one of which opens with “Still the war goes on.  Armies advance and retreat.  Charge is met by countercharge, and the death list grows rapidly.”  Garrison further states that “the putting away of all hindrances to union so that the church may present a united front to its enemies, and the incarnation in our daily lives of the principles which Jesus Christ teaches as essential to the well-being of mankind is so difficult that nothing but a united church working in close cooperation with God can ever accomplish it.”

Jones and Garrison found themselves in the thin space between God’s unspeakable gift and still the war goes on.  In that thin space they called upon the church to embody the life of Christ in their lives.  In the face of war they called upon the church to make known to the world the Prince of Peace.  In the face of alienation and hostility they yet call upon us to make real the truth of Christmas: that God has come near…that God is with us.

This Christmas season we find ourselves in similar thin spaces.  Pressed between the gospel and the situation of our climate, our cities, our international situation, what are we to do?  Given the good news of God in Christ on the one hand, and the world in which find ourselves on the other, where do we go from here?  Two saints from our past have left us a word we should hear.  We know what we are to do and we know the values and truths we are to embody to our world.


McGarvey Ice

Director of Public Services

Disciples of Christ Historical Society

Nashville, TN


This came out Wednesday from Disciples News Service as the latest installment of our Moments in Disciples History Series.  For a short piece I did on Jacob Kenoly, click here. To sign up for DNS emails, click hereI have also added this essay to my Written Word page.



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