Guideposts Classics: Walter Winchell on Christmas

In this story from December 1949, legendary newspaper and radio reporter Walter Winchell shares, in his rat-a-tat, quick-take style, what makes the Christmas season so special.

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- Posted on Dec 7, 2016

Legendary newspaper and radio reporter Walter Winchell

Personally? It means the birthday of the Man Who, when asked, “What shall one do to be saved?,” answered, “Thou shalt love thy God with thy whole soul and thy whole mind and thy whole heart—and love thy neighbor as thyself.

That ticket’s right with me, for any man’s, or any nation’s, aim.

As your reporter? It means a day when across the nation and throughout the world men give pause to salute, each in his own fashion, all that is noble and good. For example:

Last Christmas Eve only one officer remained on duty at Camp Kilmer. His name: Capt. Sammy Klause.

Probably the most memorable Yuletide wordage is the beloved poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” It was written by Clement C. Moore, who taught Hebrew.

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Christmas makes this tale propitious: An agnostic challenged a nine-year-old: “I will give you an orange if you tell me where the Lord is.” The youngster replied: “I will give you two oranges if you will tell me where He is not.”

When Woodrow Wilson was asked what’s the best way to prove the greatness of Christianity, he said simply: “Try it.”

Don Marquis wrote: “The exchange of Christmas gifts should be reciprocal rather than retaliatory.”

In Tulsa (Okla.), Chauncey Moore operates a bureau to place needy children in various homes during the Christmas season. Two years ago a 50-year-old widow called and asked if he could place her; while she wasn’t a child, she was very lonely. Could Mr. Moore help? He called a bachelor friend who called the lady. They made a date for Christmas dinner, church and a show.

Cardinal Spellman’s Christmas gift for the mind: “The joy of Christmas is a joy that war cannot kill, for it is a joy of the soul and the soul cannot die. Poverty cannot prevent the joy of Christmas, for it is a joy no earthly wealth can give. Time cannot wither Christmas, for it belongs to eternity. The world cannot shatter it, for it is a union with Him who has overcome the world.”

The Salvation Army used to award baskets each Yuletide indiscriminately. But 7 years ago they decided to give people checks, instead of food and toys, with gratifying results. One father said gratefully; “It makes me feel like a man again, to be able to go out and buy things for my kids.”

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F.D.R. once illustrated the meaning of the Yuletide spirit to a group by spinning this one: A thief broke into the home of a priest and stole his purse. That night the priest wrote in his diary: “Let me be thankful. First because I was never robbed before. Second because although he took my purse, he did not take my life. Third because although he took all I possessed, it was not much. And fourth because it was I who was robbed—not I who robbed.”

A toy firm installed a special phone for the benefit of tots, so that they could dial Santa (with mummy’s help) and tell him their Yule requests. Somehow the phone line got tangled and many calls went to the switchboard operator of an ad agency. This phone operator deserves the DSC for kindness to small fry. Instead of destroying childish faith, she told the kids she was Mrs. Claus, that Santa was slaving away for them in his toy shop—and then gave the correct phone number (the toy firm’s) for reaching him.

Christmas Bells: J. Lorimer: “Religion hasn’t failed. It hasn’t been tried.” … Billy Sunday: “Going to church doesn’t make you good any more than going to a garage makes you an automobile."… R. L. Stevenson: “Christianity believes m people even if people don’t always believe in it."… Disraeli: “Christianity is completed Judaism, or it is nothing.”

Here, penned by Avery Giles, is a Christmas poem of needed thought:

There was no room within the village inn,
The night that gentle Mary’s Son was born;
A manger cradled royal David’s kin,
Where shepherds worshipped that first Christmas morn.
Nearly two thousand years have passed and gone,
And hearts are hard and doors barred as of yore;
Let us remember that far distant dawn,
When wayfarers seek shelter on our shore.
Forget not the small Infant in the stall;
A Displaced Person come to save us all.

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