The Rev. Dr. William Baar (1921-2002) was a devoted ecumenist, chaplain, parish priest and occasional contributor to The Living Church. Beginning ministry as a Lutheran naval chaplain, Baar became an Episcopalian during doctoral work in church history at Yale. He was Episcopal chaplain at the University of Chicago and rector of Emmanuel, LaGrange, Illinois, before serving at St. George’s, Venice, and Ascension, Chicago, in retirement.
“A Christmas Note”
By William H. Baar
From The Living Church (Dec. 20, 1981), p. 2.
Carl Sagan, a young scientist, talks about the wonder of the universe and the glory of man. A favorite on educational television, he brings great enthusiasm, almost worship, to his account of “billions and billions of stars, millions and millions of light years away.” As for man, who is he? He is a speck on a speck of a planet, but still a significant part of it all.
Carl Sagan strives to bestow wonder on the universe and glory to man, but somehow it does not come off. Even with stirring music and all the help of magnificent photography, his voice sounds hollow and his emotional appreciation, shallow. One word would change all that, but it is the word he cannot bring himself to say. It is the word “God.” He says we do not need the “God hypothesis,” and, as he says this, he demonstrates the virtual impossibility of a universe so wonderful without God.
Where does all this created order come from? Where all the purpose, all the meaning, except from the Creator? How can this “speck on a speck of a planet” have such dignity, except he be a unique being created in God’s image?
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This polite, intellectual atheism is being taught all over our country today, and millions of people accept this account of life and the world’s origins as fact. The trouble is that we are finding out that world without God is not wonderful. Man without God is not intelligent and loving. Without him, life loses its meaning and direction. We are orphans in a cold and empty void.
Christmas tells us a completely different story. Christmas tells us of a loving God who created the wonderful universe that Carl Sagan talks about. Yes, its wonder staggers the imagination. But when man had lost his way, God sent his Son to call us back to the glory he had in mind when he created us. Yes, we were to be his sons, too. There are stars in Christmas, and songs, and angels. But it is Christ who brings wonder to nature. It is he who brings hope and joy. After all, the angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will to men.”
May the Creator of this marvelous universe, through his Son, redeemer of the world, and the Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life, bring Christmas to you and yours, and to believer and unbeliever alike, peace and good will toward men.
Richard Mammana is the Archivist of the Living Church Foundation.