Toys, Guns, or Christmas — Which Will It Be?

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Dec 19, 2011 No Comments ›› John Eidsmoe gilbert_portrait10

Toys, Guns, or Christmas — Which Will It Be?

Several nights ago, while working at the computer, I watched an interesting movie on television:  “The Man Who Saved Christmas (http://en NULL.wikipedia” (CBS 2002).  Perhaps you’ve seen it before.

The story is based upon fact.  The main character in the movie, A.C. Gilbert (http://www NULL.ideafinder NULL.htm) (left), was America’s leading toy manufacturer.  In 1918, while the nation was engulfed in World War I, government officials asked him to convert the A.C. Gilbert Company factory and workforce to the production of munitions for the war effort.  He did his patriotic duty and agreed, in part because his brother was missing in action.

Then Gilbert was asked to spearhead an effort to urge the American people to not buy Christmas gifts this year, and to buy war bonds instead.  At first he was going to do that.

But then, thinking of his son, he changed his mind.  Speaking to the President and his chief advisors, Gilbert told them that toys are more than playthings.  Toys help children to imagine, to dream, to learn, to grow.  One toy Gilbert developed, the erector set, could inspire children to design and build.  (I remember the erector set from my own childhood.  I didn’t have one, but my friends did.  Maybe that’s why they became architects and engineers while I’m only a lawyer and a chaplain.)

Gilbert’s eloquent, heartfelt message carried the day.  The President and his advisors decided America could keep Christmas after all, and Gilbert could expand his operation and manufacture both munitions and toys.  And then, on 11 November, the armistice was signed, and most of America’s soldiers were home for Christmas, including Gilbert’s brother Ari.  A happy ending and a Merry Christmas for all!

I enjoyed the movie, but there was a mistaken premise:

Christmas = Toys

And the converse,

No Toys = No Christmas

No!!! Just because I’m 66 years old doesn’t mean I don’t like toys.  The nice thing about having grandchildren is that you can get things for them that you really want for yourself.

Toys are fun, and they inspire and educate as well.

But toys are not what Christmas is all about.  In fact, maybe the absence of toys would force us to remember the real meaning of Christmas.

I’d like to suggest an alternate ending for the film.  Instead of an impassioned plea for toys, what if Gilbert had told the President and the nation that Christmas is about the birth of Jesus Christ, that “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself” (II Corinthians 5:19), and that with or without toys, we can celebrate Christmas by recognizing that the salvation Christ offers us is the greatest gift of all.

Hollywood, you say, would never buy it, and you’re probably right.  Nor would the advertisers.

But what about you?

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