George Bowers Sr.: Yes, Virginia, there is a Messiah
In 1897, 8-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon asked her father if Santa Claus really existed.
In reply, he encouraged her to write a letter to the editor of The Sun, a major New York newspaper, for an official reply declaring that, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” She did and in the Sept. 21 edition of the paper that year, Editor Francis Church responded to Virginia’s question with the now famous editorial, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” Since that time, his piece of insightful writing has become widely circulated, developed into musicals, and even produced as various television specials.
The heart of his argument in assuring little Virginia of Santa’s existence lay in an appeal to faith in things we cannot see. His craftily written piece assures us that Santa is indeed as real as fairies, fancy, and romance. And since it was published in the newspaper, it must be so. Would to God we could believe everything printed in newspapers, seen on television, heard on radio, or read on the Internet. Unfortunately, we know that is not true, so we must carefully evaluate all claims.
Indeed, as Church beautifully explained, faith and belief in the unseeable are vital parts of human existence. But our faith need not be blind or uninformed. Sadly it seems that whereas Santa used to be make believe and Jesus real, these roles are now reversed, or worse, Jesus has been eliminated from our mindset and culture altogether. I challenge the one who questions the literal existence of the Messiah to dig and make a decision informed not only by faith, but by fact.
Several eyewitnesses gave testimony to Jesus’ miracles, death, and resurrection and they themselves died for those claims rather than spare their own lives by recanting. In addition, 39 ancient historical sources outside the Bible testify to over 100 facts concerning Jesus’ life, teachings, crucifixion, and resurrection. More historical documentation exists for Jesus than for the founder of any other ancient religion.
Not only did Jesus live an exemplary life, perform incredible miracles, and rise after his execution, he did it all in perfect fulfillment of nearly 50 precise prophecies. Such a feat is not only difficult, but statistically impossible.
Imagine covering not the Shenandoah Valley, but the entire state of Texas with 2 feet of silver dollars, one of which has been specially marked with the words, “Merry Christmas.” Now, imagine walking across those coins blindfolded, reaching down randomly, digging through them and pulling up the very one with the Christmas greeting. The odds of this are equal to any human being fulfilling just eight of the 48 prophecies from the Old Testament concerning the Messiah. The odds against anyone fulfilling all of them are beyond the number of atoms in our entire universe.
Yes, the very existence of love, generosity and childhood to which Church alluded demands the existence of a benevolent creator who not only called all this into being, but who himself entered his creation in human form to save us from our rebellion and win us back to himself. Infinitely more certain that Santa, Jesus does exist! As you observe Christmas, recognize the Messiah who it celebrates and receive him as your savior and Lord.
George Bowers Sr. is the pastor of Antioch Church of the Brethren in Woodstock and the author of four books, including his latest book of poetry, “Wit and Wisdom of the Woods.” He can be reached at email@example.com.