The book, THE AGE OF THE MOGULS, is a fascinating book, telling about Andrew Carnegie, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, Ford, Morgan, and others who changed the face of America economically and industrially. Actually, it is the Horatio Alger story of an American dream; in another sense it is a serious blemish on American democracy, human rights, justice, and decency. However, it is clear to the author, Stewart Holbrook, that "no matter how these men accumulated their fortunes, their total activities were the greatest influence in bringing the United States to its present incomparable position in the world of industry and business". History has been strongly colored by the work of these tycoons.
Then there are those who regard the happenings of the Pentagon as the hinge that reveals the past and determines the future course of events. Millions have pinned their hopes on the United Nations as the determinant of the future. The U.N. is a very important force for developing world solidarity and security. And we know that history will be colored also by what happens in the United Nations and in the Pentagon.
The landing of the Mayflower and the signing of the Declaration of Independence are historical landmarks to Americans, and these have their influence on the world and on history.
But over 1900 years ago an event occurred in Bethlehem of Judea that has altered the course of history, too. It is of sufficient importance that our calendars are determined by it. It is so significant today that more than 850 millions of people in the world pledge their allegiance to God through Jesus Christ. Dr. Ralph Sockman wrote "The hinge of history is on the stable door of Bethlehem". Here is an event upon which civilization rises or falls.
For some this hinge is rusty. Christian teaching was a part of early childhood training, but it has grown rusty with disuse.
For some the hinge is loose. These people believe that Jesus Christ lived; some are church members. But thus far they do not feel He has provided the answers for their everyday situations.
Then there are those for whom this hinge is fixed, solid, and secure. These people have found the true art of Christian living, and the true joy of the Christian faith.
I. A young boy had been encouraged to memorize Bible passages, and at one point in this process, his mother had been reading to him the Ten Commandments. She had told him not to go near the cookie jar in the kitchen, but he did go near it, and even took a few cookies and began to eat. His mother returned and saw what had happened. She thought this would be a good chance to check his understanding of the Ten Commandments, particularly THOU SHALT NOT STEAL. So she said, "Billy, what do you think the cookie jar would say to you if it could speak?" Quickly he replied, "Suffer the little children to come unto me." There are many for whom early childhood religious training has no more significance and carry-over than for Billy.
So we need to consider this first hinge, the rusty hinge. Professor Grim was brought up in a fine Christian home, attended church and Sunday School, as a youngster. It wasn't until he went away to school that he began to question things, and to feel that his home training had been too rigid, and the religion of the home too conservative. His religion was not very deeply rooted, and so scientific thought upset his dreams. When one thread of his faith was severed, his whole house of faith began to crumble. He is still reminded of his past; he feels his parents were narrow-minded on religion and did not keep it up to date. He has little use for religion now, has not attempted to keep up the religious development and thought, and takes delight in casting unnecessary remarks which upset students in his classroom. He doesn't deny Jesus Christ, but is just indifferent. He wants his students to think, and so he talks about Christianity in a manner to stir unnecessary questions. I'm not saying that students should not apply thought and reason to their faith, but I am saying that they should not be subjected to "smart aleck", clever professors who wish to display their own religious indifference. Each man has doubts, and where questions are real, they should be discussed. Only then can one keep the hinge from getting rusty.
The hinge is rusty for many people for whom religion has been a series of "don'ts". Christianity is not a negative religion; it's positive. "LOVE your neighbor". "TAKE my yoke upon you". "GO YE into all the world". Yet there are many who have restricted Christianity by having it appear as a religion of negativism and restriction. Many have not wanted a religion of this type, and have let what religion they had rust from disuse.
II. The hinge of history swings on the stable door of Bethlehem because of Christ's birth. This hinge is loose for many of us. Most people are characterized by the three statements they most frequently make. There are those who know about Jesus Christ, but Jesus Christ has not been at the center of life--- He has been an appendage to be donned or doffed at one's convenience. When confronted with a decision, such people who have a shaky, unsure connection with reality say, "One time won't hurt", it being so easy to rationalize. "I'll not do this a second time --- certainly once won't hurt."
Then those persons for whom this hinge is loose are the ones who frequently say, "Everyone else is doing it". Society thus becomes the determinant for them. The fact that "everyone else is cheating in examinations" as one student said, is no reason to justify the practice.
Also in this category are those, for whom the hinge is loose, who are not the least bit conscience-stricken when they examine their behaviour --- "It's all right, so long as I don't get caught". Thus getting caught is the measure of right and wrong. Such false thinking and double standards come when one permits the screws to loosen in the hinge of history, when one fails to bring a connection between his religious faith and what he does outside the church.
III. But primarily we concern ourselves with the secure hinge, the gateway to life opening when it swings on Jesus Christ. The one for whom the hinge is secure may be characterized by the statements, "I know in whom I believe...I am persuaded that neither life nor death...nor anything shall separate me from the love of God."
Jesus Christ is a living reality all the time to many persons. When life is surrendered to Him, we discover that in Him is life, the life is the light of men. Darkness cannot overcome this light as we read in John 1. Disappointment does not remain long when life is lived confidently in Him. Disillusion vanishes when the ideal is seen to be the real. Religion is life, and Jesus Christ has come to be real and meaningful.
So many take the attitude toward the Child of Bethlehem that many adults assume toward children in general. So often I have heard parents say, "Oh, I wish that they would always remain small, for they are so lovable then." Such an attitude followed to its logical conclusion would deny the child a chance to fulfill his destiny, to grow into adulthood and maturity. The great event that Christmas celebrates is that the Child who was born in the stable lived a normal life, and as Luke tells us, "increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man." He grew up and became an adult. It was as an adult that He lived a life that altered history, a life that can be an encouragement to us all. Fundamental to any Christmas celebration is the fact that the Child became the Man whose life story is in our Gospels.
Those for whom this hinge of history is secure and strong, are those who have allowed the Child to become a full-grown Man, to become The Great Leader, the Valiant Crusader, the Bearer of Burdens, the Giver of His life. When the hinge is secure, the door of faith swings open to new horizons of understanding, to depths of concern for decency and justice.
Jesus Christ is the hinge of history. Someone wrote these words:
Nineteen wide centuries have come and gone and today he is the centerpiece of the human race and the leader of the column of progress. I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever were built, and all the parliaments that ever sat, and all the kings that ever reigned, put together have not affected the life of man upon this earth as has this one Solitary life.
The one who bases his life on Christ has a secure and dependable hinge. He is like the advertisement in a jewelry store window: "We strive to be like a good watch: open face, busy hands, pure gold, well regulated, full of good works." Open face --- the quality of straight-forwardness, of honesty, of integrity. Busy hands --- Christ has no hands but our hands to do His work today. Pure gold --- dependability, concern for others. Well regulated --- the Christian prays and worships, for it helps him to keep his soul synchronized with God. Full of good works --- because what we do speaks so loudly that people do not hear what we say, "Faith without works is dead."
The hinge of history is on the stable door of Bethlehem, that hinge is Jesus Christ. He is a living Reality to some. The door of hope rests on the ability of each of us to remove the rust, tighten the screws, and to make this hinge secure in our lives.
Look at the letters which mark the great watershed of history --- BC or AD, which era are WE living in? BC, Before Christ, as though He had never lived? Or AD, in the year of our Lord?
We are hearing once again the old familiar story of Bethlehem, and perhaps some of us are like amnesia victims in a shell-shocked world, who have forgotten who we are and where we belong. It is our hope that such may find their way home. Although we may shut Christ out, the door of His manger remains open to us. So He invites us to receive Him. Perhaps this day we are deciding our eternal destiny.